Threatening skies met the riders when they assembled in Davis for the start of stage 2, which would take them 110 miles to the finish in Santa Rosa. In between stood two intermediate sprints, as well as one category four climb, one category three climb and two category two climbs.
An early break of five riders escaped into the rain. Thomas Rabou of Team Type 1 was the quickest to the top of the first king of the mountain sprint, a category four climb that peaked at mile twenty-seven. The group reformed just past the summit and set to work crossing thirty-five flat miles in scenic Napa Valley.
Next on the agenda was the category 2 Howell Mountain climb at mile sixty-four. In the flat section the two King of the Mountain points, the five breakaway riders established their largest advantage over the peloton of the stage, topping out at 6:50 ahead of the chasing group. As the breakaway hit the slopes of Howell Mountain, Rabou made his move to make sure he would take home as many King of the Mountain points as possible. Rabou’s attack quickly distanced the others in the breakaway, and he crested Howell Mountain first, with a sizable advantage behind him.
On the descent from Howell Mountain, the breakaway had come back together. But once again, the pace at the front of the group began to cause separations among the leading five, and it was Rabou who darted out of the pack to take the maximum points at the top of Oakville Grade. This time, however, Rabou’s efforts had permanently left the breakaway with one less rider as they made their way towards Trinity Grade.
Rather than wait for the rest of the breakaway, Rabou and Karl Menzies (UnitedHealthcare p/b/ Maxxis) struck out together for the top of Trinity Grade. The gap was down to two minutes as Rabou and Menzies reached five kilometers to go to the summit, and was steadily shrinking. The two riders dug deep, however, and reached the top of the climb with thirty seconds to spare, with Rabou taking his fourth King of the Mountains victory of the day.
“We went pretty hard up the last climb,” Menzies said. “All the while between Oakville and Trinity I was telling myself it was only 9 km from the top of one climb to the next. I just wanted to get to the top of Trinity without getting caught by the main bunch. We got over and could descend at our own pace. We got caught just as we got off the climb.”
As Rabou and Menzies dropped down into Santa Rosa, they were brought in by an elite group of twenty-five who had crested Trinity Grade not long after the leading duo.
U.S. national champion George Hincapie chased hard on the technical descent to finish 1:17 back. “I didn’t feel good at all on the climbs,” Hincapie said. “That’s probably normal after crashing at 60 kph. Hopefully I’ll feel better as the race goes on.”
As the lead group swung into Santa Rosa, Menzies had a some bad luck coming through the last corner with about 800 meters to go, crashing on the wet roads. While he was able to keep contact with the front group, he lost his position and it took him out of good contention for the finish.
However the wet roads didn’t prevent Australian Brett Lancaster of Cervelo Test team from taking the win and also the leader’s jersey.
Tomorrow the riders roll out from San Francisco and race 113 miles to Santa Cruz facing two category 2 climbs, including the famed Bonny Doon climb, one category 3 climb and one category 4 climb. This stage and the time trial in Los Angeles are the two critical stages that determine the real G.C. contenders.
Southeast riders report:
Matt Crane, who also went down yesterday, hit the deck a few turns ahead of teammate Andrew Pinfold on the Oakville Grade descent.
George Hincapie (BMC): 36th on the stage; 36th GC
Chris Butler (BMC): 69th on the stage; 62nd GC
Matt Crane (UnitedHealthcare): 120th on the stage; 122th GC
Davide Frattini (Team Type I): 48th on the stage; 49th GC