Stage Two: Santa Rosa to Sacramento, 187.2km/116mi

- by Cathy Mehl

With a peloton of 131 riders winding through the scenic winery regions of Sonoma and Napa, there was no time to stop and imbibe as the group rolled through a rainy stage two in the third annual Amgen Tour of California. Facing the most inclemate weather in the race's three year history, the temperatures hovered around 50F while the rain came down in intermittent bursts. The riders kept their rain capes on throughout much of the day and arrived to a wet finish circuit located in the shadow of the California Capitol building on the Capitol Mall.

With two early climbs in the stage and then two sprint zones before a flat finish into the Mall area, it was a day to pay careful attention to what was going on at the front of the race. After 15 minutes of racing BMC's Scott Nydam attacked the peloton and developed a gap, with Kelly Benefit rider Jonathan Sundt finally taking up chase with no further response from the group. Nydam took all KOM points which helped keep his teammate Jackson Stewart in the climber's jersey for another day. With Stewart building a gap that went out to more than 15 minutes, Sundt was stuck in no-man's land between the leaderon the road and a peloton riding at a casual pace.

In the first sprint area Nydam still led and took the biggest time bonus, followed by Gerald Ciolek (High Road) and Tyler Farrar (Slipstream) for third. With the time bonus awarded for third, Farrar moved to within one second of race leader Fabian Cancellara's time. In the town of Davis for the second sprint, Nydam once again took first place honors, with Farrar able to gain two more seconds by taking 2nd place on the line and thereby passing Cancellara on GC by one second. Slipstream then took control at the front of the race and reeled in Nydam with 27km to go.

Driving fast into the circuits the teams of the sprinters moved forward and began to drill the speed on the slick streets of Sacramento. Quick Step showed pure precision as Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen headed for the finish. Team High Road's Mark Cavendish began his sprint from 300 meters out, but the young rider couldn't hold his power and was quickly passed by former world champion Boonen who easily took the sprint over Heinrich Haussler's repeat performance from stage one. Super Mario Cipollini (Rock Racing) powered up for third place, clearly announcing that age is no barrier to continuing his winning ways. Team Astana's Aaron Kemps put in a strong effort and took the 12th spot on the line, with Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer coming in just behind him. Farrar took the race lead with a slim one second advantage over Cancellara (Team CSC). Team Astana sits in second place for the Teams Classification.

In the press conference after the stage Boonen was asked about his victory in the bad weather, and reiterated that he doesn't like to ride in the rain, but felt today's victory was one of his best ever. "I don't like the rain. I don't like it at all. I don't like to descend in it and I don't like to sprint in it." Asked about racing against Cipollini, Boonen claimed, "Age is only what you make of it. Cipo is a well-trained athlete. I know the first time I beat him I was very proud but the next day he beat me back!"

Wednesday's mountain stage could pose some problems with snow if the temperatures continue to drop, but hopefully no changes in the route will be necessary and another change in the race lead should occur. Leipheimer sits only seven seconds back on GC and knows these hills like the back of his hand. Training often with today's breakaway leader Nydam, the route is part of Levi's regular training ground and the younger rider had plenty of praise for the help Levi has given him with his professional career. While the rain might continue to come down, it's a safe bet that the fireworks will still fly as the Amgen Tour of California hits the mountains. Stay tuned as Team Astana prepares to animate the race like they do so well.

Beyond the Finish Line: California's Gold Rush era remains alive in this 28-acre historic district along the Sacramento River. Designated as a State Historic Park and officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Old Sacramento is the top visitor draw in the region, attracting more than 5 million visitors annually. For locals, it is a favorite getaway and has been voted the best place for a first date. Old Sacramento proudly offers a full year-round event calendar and is the birthplace of one of the largest jazz festivals in the world.

Stage Two Results
1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
5.09.35 (36.125 km/h)
2 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
3 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Rock Racing
4 Mark Cavendish (GBr) High Road
5 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Team CSC
6 Tyler Farrar (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
7 Dominique Rollin (Can) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team
8 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team
9 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) High Road
10 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank

12 Aaron Kemps (Aus)
18 Christopher Horner (USA)
21 Levi Leipheimer (USA)
28 Vladimir Gusev (Rus)
61 Jani Brajkovic (Slo)
68 Sergey Ivanov (Rus)
76 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa)
103 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz)

General Classification after stage two
1 Tyler Farrar (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 9.16.54
2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.01
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step 0.04
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) High Road 0.05
5 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) High Road 0.07
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
7 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 0.08
8 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC 0.09
9 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
10 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Bissell Pro Cycling 0.10

15 Christopher Horner (USA) 0.13
30 Aaron Kemps (Aus) 0.18
47 Jani Brajkovic (Slo) 0.22
114 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) 10.06
116 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz) 10.09
117 Sergey Ivanov (Rus) 10.11
118 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) 10.16

Results provided by www.cyclingnews.com