JJ Haedo (CSC) used his powerful jump and late speed to win his second stage in the 2007 Tour of California on Saturday.
The fast finishing Argentinean jumped late in the sprint but had enough speed to snatch victory from Greg Henderson (T-Mobile) and world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step). Russell Downing (Healthnet) finished 10th on the stage after his team worked with Discovery Channel to catch the break in the final miles.
The stage was characterised by a long breakaway of nine riders, including Stuart O?Grady (CSC), that forced Discovery Channel to work hard to defend Levi Leipheimer?s overall lead. O?Grady became virtual race leader at one point, but the Disco boys drove hard on the fast finishing circuits to catch the break with just a mile to go. As a result Leipheimer still leads the race by 21 seconds ahead of Jens Voigt (CSC), and is 54 seconds ahead of his Discovery Channel team mate Jason McCartney.
The race ends on Sunday (Feb 25th) with a 77.5-mile circuit stage along the sea front on Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, but Leipheimer refused to admit he had already sealed overall victory.
?The last stage is viewed as an easy parade stage but we?re going to stay focused. The race isn?t over yet,? Leipheimer said.
?It?s been harder than last year and has been a real battle. It?ll be fast and windy in Long Beach and so we?ll stay focused and look forward to celebrating at the finish.?
?Today was a hard stage. Everybody came out with all guns firing and everyone came out to crack us. It was a hard race and the crash early on affected us. Tony (Cruz) and George (Hincapie) hit the deck right in front of me. We were down for a while and had to wait for them to comeback after the bunch split into two. They dug deep and I have to thank them.?
?To be honest we weren?t exactly calm when the break got clear, but now you know why this team has won seven Tour de Frances. We?re a strong team. Everybody wanted to crack the leader today and make us lose but this team knows what they?re doing.?
HEADO HAILED AS NEXT BIG SPRINT
JJ Heado has now won four stages in just two editions of the Tour of California and will surely be a major rival for big-name sprinters in Europe in the next few months. He is set to ride Milan-San Remo in March and then go head to head with Alessandro Petacchi in the Giro d?Italia.
With Stuart O?Grady in the break, Haedo had to look after himself in the sprint but timed his effort perfectly.
?I didn?t expect it to finish in a sprint and had to find my own way with some help from Jens Voigt. I was on Thor Hushovd?s wheel at 500 metres to go and thought it was a good wheel. The finish was a bit uphill and there was a slight headwind, so I waited a bit before going for the line. Winning four stages isn?t bad??
1 Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team CSC 105 miles in 3.56.04
2 Greg Henderson (NZl) T-mobile
3 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
4 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole
5 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Predictor-Lotto
6 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
8 Alexander Candelario (USA) Jelly Belly
9 Alejandro Acton (Arg) Colavita Sutter Home
10 Russell Downing (GBr) Health Net p/b Maxxis
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel 22.17.56
2 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.21
3 Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel 0.54
4 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 1.06
5 Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC 1.16
6 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Team CSC 1.24
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-mobile 1.32
8 Ben Day (Aus) Navigators 1.38
9 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 1.41
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Health Net p/b Maxxis 1.57