The first road stage of the Tour of California ended in chaos on Monday after a crash marred the finishing circuits, leaving 20 riders on the floor and many others blocked behind them.
Amongst the 48 who crashed and struggled to get going was race leader Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) and many of his team mates. Leipheimer eventually finished over a minute behind stage winner Graeme Brown (Rabobank) but kept the yellow jersey after the race commissaries made a discretionary ruling that all the riders involved in the crash would be given the same time as the stage winner.
The race lead would have gone to Ben Jacques-Maynes of the small US Priority Health team because he avoided the crash and finished just behind Brown but with Santa Rosa being Leipheimer?s home town, the commissaries made the unusual decision to give all the riders the same time even if the crash occurred ten kilometres from the finish.
Race director Jim Birrell and Leipheimer tried to justify the decision because of the need for finishing circuits that entertain the crowd.
?Due to the crash and a large number of riders being involved the commissaire?s panel decided to award all the riders the same time as the winner. I think it was a fair decision and the right decision. The finishing circuits are a necessary evil. We need to give the crowd a show,? Burrell said.
?We don?t want to the Tour of California to be decided by a crash,? Leipheimer said.
?For example I?m very disappointed that Dave Zabriskie crashed out (he cut his head but did not break any bones-ndr). I don?t want to beat him that way. It doesn?t make it any sweeter. However I think we have to remember that circuit finishes in a race of this calibre are not very common but they?re necessary because the people who came out deserve a show. Three finishing laps gives them that but there was a risk of a pile up because the metal balls (cat?s eyes) where everywhere. I saw a T-Mobile rider hit one and then he went over his bars and triggered the massive pile-up.?
Graeme Brown (Rabobank) avoided the crash and just beat Greg Henderson (T-Mobile) in the sprint, with fellow Australian Allan Davis of Discovery Channel third. According to official results Leipheimer kept his one-second lead on Jason Donald (Team Slipstream). Ben Jacques-Maynes is third at five seconds. The decision also meant that George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) and Fabian Cancellara (CSC) stayed in the top five overall.
The pile-up was spectacular and completely blocked the road. Ivan Basso also went down, banging his left knee. Paolo Bettini missed the crashed but sat up in the sprint to avoid what he described as the ?mad racing?.
Russell Downing (Healthnet) did not crash but was blocked behind and finished out of the leading places. Charly Wegelius (Liquigas) was also blocked but stopped before the crash and could only watch as riders picked themselves up.
Tuesday?s 116-mile stage two is from Santa Rosa to the Californian capital Sacramento and crosses the Napa Valley wine area. The first half of the stage includes some tough hills but the second half is totally flat.
1 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank 156km in 4-17-19 (36.47 km/h)
2 Greg Henderson (NZl) T-mobile
3 Allan Davis (Aus) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
5 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Predictor-Lotto
6 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Peter Wrolich (Aut) Gerolsteiner
8 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Team CSC
9 Sebastien Hinault (Fra) Credit Agricole
10 David Vitoria (Swi) BMC
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 4-22-08
2 Jason Donald (USA) Team Slipstream powered by Chipotle 0.01
3 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Priority Health Cycling Team 0.05
4 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.06
5 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team
6 Adam Hansen (Aus) T-mobile
7 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Rabobank 0.07
8 Ben Day (Aus) Navigators Insurance Cycling Team 0.08
9 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Health Net Presented By Maxxis 0.09
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-mobile same time.