Santa Clarita is one of those “bedroom communities” just north of LA. But nobody was sleeping here in SoCal Saturday. On what looked to be – on paper anyway – perhaps the toughest stage of the race with 4 KOM climbs coming in the first 2/3rds of the stage, it was attack after attack after attack. But in the end, it was two familiar names out front – CSC’s JJ Haedo with the stage win, and Discovery’s Levi Leipheimer retains the overall lead with just one stage left in the ’07 Tour of California.
High flying action was the order of the day on stage 6.
But Levi’s Tour almost came to an end in the opening miles. He was riding right behind teammates George Hincapie and Tony Cruz when the two of the hit the pavement trying to avoid another rider. Both the downed Disco riders rejoined to finish the stage, but George ended up with a fractured wrist.
The glorious sunshine at the start held all day.
Levi saved his bacon by swerving at the very last second. “I was right behind them and almost went down myself,” Levi said. “I was trying to convince everyone that the thing to do was to wait, but it turned out to be a very difficult day.”
The main group rolls into the start of the Balcolm Canyon climb.
The Race Ain’t Over
The thing that made it very difficult for the Disco boys was the relentless attacking from Team CSC. Jens Voigt started the day with a legitimate chance to overtake Leipheimer in the general classification, and CSC kept the pressure on all day. CSC’s Stuart O’Grady was part of an early break, and at one point in the race, he was even the leader on the road. His presence in the lead pack forced Discovery to try and pull the peleton up to the front.
The Pope and the Grim Reaper joined the break on the Balcolm Canyon climb.
It was a great day for Voigt, who told me after the race, “It was all or nothing. I really like that style of racing. It was nice and open and honest…just all out. No tactics, no waiting until the last kilometer, just all or nothing.”
The pandenmonium was … pandemonius atop Balcolm Canyon.
In the end, it was Heado’s power that made the difference. JJ sprinted to his second win of the TofC, with T-Mobile’s Greg Henderson second (again), and Quick Step’s world champ Paolo Bettini in third.
It all ends in Long Beach on Sunday. Could we see Voigt and CSC overpower Leipheimer and Discovery? Don’t count in it. Voigt seems resigned to the fact that Levi will stay in yellow. “Sunday is a sprinters day. We have a chance to win a stage, but I don’t think we’ll change the overall classification.”
But while it looks like Levi should go on to win the TofC, there’s still the battle for the final stage. And CSC would like to make another strong statement tomorrow. “We’re team CSC,” said Voigt. “We want to win every race. It’s always important for us.”
Bad ass JJ Haedo takes his second stage win in Santa Clarita.
And what about JJ? Can he do it again, and pull-out win number three? “Who knows,” he says. “Let’s enjoy today.”
”Nice job Speedy.”
Results: ToC Stage 6
1. Juan Josй Haedo (Arg) Team CSC 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 Fцrster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
7. Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
8. Alexander Candelario (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling Team
9. Alejandro Acton (Arg) Colavita Sutter Home
10. Russell Downing (GBr) Health Net Presented By Maxxis
GC After Stage 6
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 22.17.56
2. Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.21
3. Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team 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 Insurance Cycling Team 1.38
9. Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 1.41
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Health Net Presented By Maxxis 1.57