Levi Leipheimer Level The Field As Tom Peterson Takes Stage 2 in California

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Levi Leipheimer Level The Field As Tom Peterson Takes Stage 2 in California

More wind and rain greeted the riders at the start line in Sausalito this morning for stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California which took the riders 116 miles and over two categorized climbs, the last one sumitting just 10 miles from the finish in Santa Cruz.

The race started with it's usual neutral section, however today's neutral start was a bit longer than usual at about seven miles. The reason was because the peloton crossed San Fransisco's famous Golden Gate Bridge, which was completely closed to traffic for the race, the first time the bridge has been closed for a sporting event.

Once across the bridge, the attacks started. Eventually a breakaway was established including Tom Peterson and Steven Cozza (Garmin-Slipstream), Jason McCartney (Saxo Bank), Stef Clement and Grischa Niermann (Rabobank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), Cameron Evans (OUCH), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling), and Valeriy Kobzarenko (Team Type 1).

The breakaway stayed away most of the day and by the time the peloton hit the bottom of the climb, Bonny Doon, they had amassed a gap of four minutes and 10 seconds.

The peloton had been lead all day by the Rock Racing squad on behalf of race leader Francisco Mancebo who won the jersey with a 103-mile solo effort yesterday.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana), sitting in second at 1:03, was desperate to gain time back on Mancebo today and attempt to grab hold of the race leader's yellow jersey.

Once the breakaway made the left turn that started the Ascent on Bonny Doon, Spanish rider Barredo put in an attack that no one could follow. He became the leader on the road with a group of nine between him and the peloton.

As the peloton made their left turn for the climb, it was Yaroslav Popovych (Astana) leading the chase. Leipheimer then shot off of Popovych's wheel putting in his own attack on his rivals that he later claimed was not planned, but because he "was cold."

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) tried hard to follow Leipheimer, but once Leipheimer kicked again, the Italian could do nothing but wait for the shelter of the peloton.

Leipheimer  then powered up the climb, picking off the remnants of the breakaway. He put in a herculean effort that, by the top of the climb, saw him as leader on the road having overcome a four-minute deficit in only six miles.

Only two riders managed to maintain contact with Leipheimer, Peterson, and McCartney. On the decent, Leipheimer threw caution to the wind and got a small gap on the other two. Peterson eventually closed it and McCartney fell back into the folds of the race.

On the final run, Leipheimer was riding his own personal time trial as Peterson was giving him no help whatsoever. As the two made their way into the city center, a group of 20 or so riders was quickly approaching.

The group included race favorites Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream), Ivan Basso (Liquigas), and Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner. Missing from this group was race leader Francisco Mancebo.

The chasing group fell short as 20 seconds up the road, Peterson sprinted around Leipheimer for the stage win. Leipheimer gained a six-second time bonus on the line and needed at least 57 seconds over Mancebo to be in yellow.

One minute, 50 seconds after the stage was won, Mancebo and his team of Rocksters crossed the line. The jersey had changed hands and is now being defended by new race leader, Leipheimer's Astana team.

Top 5 on GC looks like:
Levi Leipheimer
Michael Rogers - 23 sec.
David Zabriskie - 27 sec.
Lance Armstrong - 33 sec
Chris Horner - 37 sec

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