Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R) won a thrilling game of cat and mouse on the streets of Pasadena to win Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of Calironaia ahead of Hayden Roulston of Cervelo Test Team and Pieter Weening of Rababonk.
The story of Stage 7 which covered the 88.9 miles (143Km) from Santa Clarita to Pasadena was one of constant attacks all of which up until near the mid point of the race were quickly shut down by the main field – until one stuck. A break was caught at around the 31 mile mark and almost immediately another got away – this time there were enough riders in it to make it work, and crucially there were enough riders in it from the sprinter's teams that once it became viable lessened the will of those teams to chase it down.
The break started with seven riders but within a few miles that became 10: Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing), Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam), George Hincapie ( Columbia-Highroad), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Fränk Schleck (Saxo Bank), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Martin Elmiger (AG2R), Markus Zberg (BMC), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin - Slipstream) and Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R). At one point they were over four minutes up on the main field before Astana began to peg them back (they ended the race 3:10 up) – mindful of protecting Leipheimer's position in the overall standings.
The stage finish was played out over five laps of a five mile circuit around the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena and as the laps wound down the break played out in microcosm the earlier part of the stage with numerous breaks, (often featuring Hincapie, Schleck and Weening) all being reeled in until on the last lap Nocentini broke and was almost immediately joined by Roulston (CTT) and Weening (Rabobank) the advantage looked to be with Roulston who with his track background looked set to have an advantage in any sprint – no one had told Nocentini though and he took the win.
Levi Leipheimer finished three minutes back in the main field and retains his lead in the overall standings go into tomorrow's final stage from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido with every chance of winning the Tour of California three years in a row. Less fortunate was Francesco Mancebo who crashed heavily on a descent and was taken to hospital, Mancebo won Stage 1 on Monday and had been leading the King of the Mountain competition.
Top 10 ToC Stage 7
1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 3.24.43
2 Hayden Roulston (NZl) Cervélo TestTeam
3 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
4 Markus Zberg (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0.07
5 Martin Elmiger (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Chris Baldwin (USA) Rock Racing
7 George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - Highroad
8 Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
9 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream
10 Addy Engels (Ned) Quick Step
Top 10 General classification ToC after stage 7
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 27.39.02
2 David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0.36
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - Highroad 0.45
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo Bank 1.10
5 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia - Highroad 1.29
6 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 1.46
7 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 1.54
8 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 1.59
9 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana 2.13
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 2.21
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