Tour of California stage one photo gallery, by Graham Watson>>

After the joy and hullabaloo that surrounded Lance Armstrong?s comeback on Saturday, the Tour of California got the result it didn?t want today when Francesco Mancebo, a rider heavily implicated in Operacion Puerto, won the stage and took the leaders yellow jersey.

The Rock Racing rider broke away early on in the race. Two riders got across to him on the finishing circuit but he still managed to win the sprint. The result matters not, as many would believe that he shouldn?t be riding at all.

Last year the organisers of the Tour of California, AEG Sports, did the right thing to protect their event and prevented three riders, Oscar Sevilla, Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Botero, from starting using the fact that there was an open investigation against their names.

This year AEG did not prevent anyone from riding, and as they say in America, it just came back and bit them on the ass.

Mancebo was prevented from riding the 2006 Tour de France when, on the eve of the race riders who?s names were on Dr Fuentes? list were sent home by their teams. Mancebo in fact left before his then team AG2R sent him home and immediately announced plans to retire.

Today he squirmed his way through the press conference in Santa Rosa, saying that he never retired, and that the reason he promptly left his team?s hotel in Strasbourg in 2006 was because his team didn?t believe him.

Andrew Merrick, the President of AEG sports defended the decision to let Mancebo ride in 2009. ?The issue that we have with Operacion Puerto and the implicated riders is that there?s no kind of process by which athletes are accused, by which the athletes are able to present a defence, or a structure in place by which they can be acquitted. We don?t have grounds to not let them ride.

?According to USA cycling and the UCI, Tyler Hamilton is absolutely eligible to race in events, he?s eligible to race in world championships, he?s eligible to represent his country in the Olympic games, and so are the other guys.?

Behind Mancebo’s lone break Astana were putting several of their opponents out of the running. Pushing the pace on the climb of Howell Mountain road and forcing a group of around 23 riders clear. That group contained four Astana riders including Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong. Seeing the chance to whittle down the number of overall contenders they kept the pace high and left the remainder of the bunch behind.

Race leader Fabian Cancellara had abandoned the race before this point due to a fever, while Tour champion Carlos Sastre crashed heavily on a descent before getting back to the peloton. To add to the organiser’s woes no TV pictures were broadcast from the motorbikes as the plane that relays the signals was grounded due to ice above four thousand feet.

Prior to the race start, news had filtered through that Lance Armstrong’s time trial bike had been stolen from the Astana truck during the night. Armstrong broke the news himself on his Twitter feed, and asked the 109,000 people who follow his Twittering to look out for the yellow and black machine.

It shouldn’t be too hard to spot – it’s the only one of its kind in existence.

Tour of California stage one: results

1. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Rock Racing 173.2km in 4-11-07


2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 1-07

3. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad

4. Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank

5. Christopher Horner (USA) Astana

6. Steve Morabito (Swi) Astana

7. Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Rock Racing

8. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas

9. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank

10. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana all at same time.

British

66. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 13-38

General classification after stage one

1. Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Rock Racing in 4-15-46


2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 1-02

3. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 1-03

4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad at same time

5. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at 1-05

6. Christopher Horner (USA) Astana at 1-09

7. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia-Highroad at 1-13

8. Jose Rubiera (Spa) Astana

9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at same time

10. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 1-14

British

64. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 13-36

Tour of California 2009A bedraggled Lance Armstrong

Tour of California 2009Nice day for it

Tour of California 2009Tyler Hamilton and Ivan Basso (centre)

Tour of California 2009Francesco Mancebo goes it alone in the appalling weather on stage one

Tour of California 2009Francesco Mancebo wins stage one

Photos by Graham Watson


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS

Prologue: Cancellara Express derails the Armstrong show

NEWS & FEATURES

Cancellara abandons Tour of California

Armstrong’s bike stolen in California

Cavendish poised to take leaders jersey

Tour of California blog

Armstrong and Astana train for Tour of California

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile

Lance Armstrong: Rider Profile

PHOTOS

Stage one photo gallery

Prologue photo gallery

Cycling Weekly photo gallery

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW

2009 Tour of California race preview

Start list: all the riders

Team list: all the squads

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGES

Saturday, February 14 Prologue details

Sunday, February 15 Stage one details

Monday, February 16 Stage two details

Tuesday, February 17 Stage three details

Wednesday, February 18 Stage four details

Thursday February 19 Stage five details

Friday, February 20 Stage six details

Saturday, February 21 Stage seven details

Sunday, February 22 Stage eight details

EXTERNAL LINKS

Tour of California official website