What's Cool In Road Cycling

ToCal St.1: Levi Goes Home

Do kids read Peanuts in the Sunday comics anymore? The first ever stage of the Amgen Tour of California finished in Santa Rosa, where Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown and Snoopy called home. Levi Leipheimer calls it home too. There was no mistaking this along the race course today – Levi, the race leader, was coming home and Lucy and Linus were taking a back seat to the local cycling hero.

The Peanut gallery in Santa Rosa was packed with… nuts!

– By Tom McManners of Discover Adventures
And then it dawned on me, after watching Juan Jose (J.J.) Haedo (Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team) win the first ever road stage of the Tour of California and the first race of the new teams existence (100% winning ratio thus far), that J.J. probably didn’t even know who Pigpen was having grown up in Argentina. But the cloud of dust he left the field in was done in true style.

J.J.’s jersey (outstretched arms of cyclist) accentuates his victory hail.

But the story of the day was clearly Levi’s homecoming. It couldn’t have been more grand. Through an incredible stroke of luck, I found myself at Levi’s feet, looking up just as the ESPN reporter was beginning her interview immediately after the race. I had heard a roar from the crowd, looked behind me and Levi, arms stretched high to the crowd as an indication of his appreciation to them, rolled up and stopped directly in front of me.

Hometown hero Levi was pretty amazed at the crowd support…

The moment got better.

Levi was genuinely choked up at how the race unfolded, his heralded return to Santa Rosa in front of thousands of hometown fans, and especially with gratitude for his Gerolsteiner team that worked their butts off for him today. In spirit, he won the race today. In actuality, he retained the leader’s jersey as well.

Charlie brown and Snoopy call Santa Rosa home.

I tip my hat to the fans in Santa Rosa; I have never witnessed a finish of a stage race with as many fans as this anywhere in the United States. Literally, fans were 8 people deep in many areas lining the finishing stretch. Just past the finish line, a parking structure was packed with screaming fans looking down on the finishing circuits. My favorite scene of the day was one of the local homes expressing their love of cycling and Levi. Kudo’s to the Peanut gallery!

Levi lives here. …well not here exactly, but nearby.

In the end, much acclaim must also be given to the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team. How often does a first year team come out and win one of the biggest events ever in their first race ever? That’s like hitting a home run at your first at bat in the big leagues. The speeds at the end of the race on the straight-aways exceeded 36 mph. It’s no small task to jettison yourself to the front of this world-class peloton.

At last, men in spandex get the recognition they deserve.

Not lost is the image of Lucy pulling the ball away from Charlie Brown before he kicks it…the same feeling I’m certain many of the other teams and cyclists must have felt when J.J. crossed the line.

Results: Stage 1 Tour of California
1. Juan Josй Haedo (Arg) Toyota-United Pro 3.14.13 (39.88km/h)
2. Olaf Pollack (Ger) T-Mobile Team
3. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC
4. Charles Bradley Huff (USA) Team TIAA-CREF
5. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
6. Viktor Rapinski (Blr) Colavita Olive Oil-Sutter Home Wines
7. Renй Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner
8. Martin Elmiger (Swi) Phonak Hearing Systems
9. Antonio Cruz (USA) Toyota-United Pro
10. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC

GC After Stage 1

1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 3.19.06
2. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.05
3. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.06
4. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems
5 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.09
6. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.10
7. Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel
8. Hayden Roulston (NZl) Health Net p/b Maxxis 0.11
9. Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel
10. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel

cycling tours PezCycling’s Tour of California reports are filed in partnership with Discover Adventures Cycling Tours: Check their website to enter to win a trip to the Tour de Georgia.

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