Rollin rolls to stage victory in 2008 Amgen Tour of California

News & Results

02/22/2008| 0 comments
by Thomas Valentinsen
George Hincapie. Photo copyright Ben Ross / Action Images Inc.
George Hincapie. Photo copyright Ben Ross / Action Images Inc.

Rollin rolls to stage victory in 2008 Amgen Tour of California

Levi Leipheimer retains overall lead.

Six-time Canadian National Road Champion Dominique Rollin (CAN) of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team made history today as he powered away to an impressive solo victory in Stage 4 of the 2008 Amgen Tour of California.  Weather hammered the peloton for nearly seven hours as the stage took riders down the California coast from Seaside to San Luis Obispo on an impressive and challenging course.  Defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Astana was able to retain the overall lead and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey going into the individual time trial in Solvang tomorrow.

“Last time I raced in such tough weather, I won the stage,” said Rollin, referring to a stormy day in Quebec’s 2005 Tour de Beauce.  “The worse it is, the better I am.  When the wind came, I said keep it coming.”

Thursday morning brought cold rain to the longest stage of the eight-day Amgen Tour of California.  At 135 miles, the picturesque stage along Highway 1 would prove to be a long, difficult trek masked by clouds, drizzle and a steady 30-mph headwind.  But in cycling, such problems provide opportunities.

At the start of the race, strong man Henk Vogels (AUS) of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team launched an attack, which preempted several counterattacks.  However, it would be Rollin who blasted up the road with Jackson Stewart (USA) of Team BMC to take the lead.  Others soon joined the breakaway, including George Hincapie (USA) of High Road, Iker Camano (ESP) of Saunier Duval-Scott, Bryce Meade (USA) of the Jelly Belly Cycling Team and Edward King (USA) of BISSELL Pro Cycling.  Eventually, the break would grow to include 11 riders, and their gap on the field grew to 4:35.

“We were thinking of setting up the sprint for Mark Cavendish (GBR).  I decided to go across just to be represented,” said Hincapie, the legendary veteran who arrived to find a solid tempo being set by the young Americans.  “This is the biggest race in the U.S.  These guys have everything in the world to prove.  I remember when I was a young rider in a big race; this is the one shot to prove yourself.”

The field, meanwhile, remained content to allow Astana, riding to protect overall leader Leipheimer, to churn away at the front.  Team CSC, with its leader Fabian Cancellara (SUI) just 13 seconds behind Leipheimer in the overall standings, rode in the second spot. 

Five hours into the race, the weather conditions caused some of the strongest men in the field to dissolve.  Stewart and Meade would leave the breakaway and abandon the race due to signs of hypothermia.  More than a dozen others would abandon the race due to the collapse in their core temperatures.

“He went from being an animator, taking all the KOMs, being in control of everything he wanted to do,” said Gavin Chilcott, team director of Team BMC, of Stewart.  “He was in control of all that until he lost control of his core temperature.  You can’t operate your brakes.”

As the peloton continued their charge with nearly two hours to go, Rollin’s confidence grew.  “With 40 km to go I started looking around and realized I was the strongest guy in the break,” said Rollin, who raced three years in France before racing in the American pro ranks last season.  “With 20 km to go, I managed to get three or four meters and could see the guys weren’t reacting.”

George Hincapie (USA) of High Road chased valiantly hoping to post the win near the San Luis Obispo headquarters of his team, but fell short by 17 seconds to finish second.  Camano finished just behind Hincapie in third.

“It was definitely pretty epic as far as conditions go,” said Hincapie, who rode in the break most of the day.

The field finished 2:27 down on Rollin.  Leipheimer remained in the lead, just ahead of Cancellara going into the critical Stage 5 individual time trial.

In addition to the stage win, Rollin took the Herbalife Sprint Leader Jersey and the Tachyon Most Aggressive Rider Jersey. Today's California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountain Jersey was, once again, awarded to Scott Nydam (USA) from Team BMC.  Robert Gesink (NED) of Rabobank held onto the Union Bank of California Best Young Rider Jersey.

Amgen’s celebration of cancer survivors continued today with San Luis Obispo-area husband and wife cancer survivors Justin and Deborah Baldwin riding in the Breakaway Mile, a special one-mile honorary ride across the finish line celebrating local cancer survivors and their support teams.  At the same hour, on the same day in September 2003, married couple Justin and Deborah Baldwin each learned they were being diagnosed with cancer.  Justin was diagnosed with tonsil cancer and Deborah with breast cancer.  Cancer-free today, the Baldwins were joined by their support group of friends who helped them during their fight and Amgen scientist Dr. Steve Elliot, who plays a crucial role in developing innovative medicines.

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