Stage 4: Seaside to San Luis Obispo, 217.8km/135.3mi

- by Cathy Mehl / photos © Graham Watson

Leading the peloton for most of the day, Team Astana did the hard work required to protect the lead of Levi Leipheimer on the longest stage of the race-the longest in both distance and time in the saddle. Working like a well-oiled machine Team Astana received no outside help at the front and established a slow pace while keeping an eye up the road for any GC threats trying to break away. On the Queen stage of the 3rd Amgen Tour of California the weather failed to make it easy on the peloton as they rode in the driving wind and rain down the scenic Big Sur coastal area along the Pacific Ocean. In an area known for stunning views, rough seas and plenty of sea life, the riders were more focused on getting safely to San Luis Obispo than eyeing a spouting whale or pod of dolphins.

Attacks and counter-attacks went off the front as Team Astana rode tempo at the front with race leader Leipheimer safely tucked in behind his teammates. Near the 20km mark Astana finally allowed a break of 11 riders to go up the road. Included in this group was George Hincapie (Team High Road), hoping for a stage win in the city headquarters for his new team. Blowing wind and rain kept most of the boys bundled up in rain gear and leg warmers all day, with water spraying off wheels making it a most miserable day in the saddle. As the weather deteriorated and the flu-bug continued to infect many in the peloton, rider after rider abandoned throughout the day, including Jackson Stewart (BMC) who earned all the mountain points on the stage and was set to take over the KOM jersey from teammate Scott Nydam but was forced to abandon the race suffering from hypothermia.

The break dwindled to 8 riders who maintained a gap hovering near the two-minute mark as they all struggled to make it through the rain and wind into SLO. With less than 20km to go Canadian rider Dominique Rollin (Toyota-United) attacked the group, with Iker Camano (Saunier Duval-Scott) and Hincapie chasing. Levi called his team off the front with Team CSC and Quick-Step moving into the lead slots, still hoping to chase down the break and launch their sprinters. But Rollin would have none of that and continued to power solo to the line, keeping a tight aero tuck and barely slowing down on the turns. Driving to the line Rollin started his victory celebration 200 meters from the line and was indeed the only rider who looked even remotely happy to be racing today. Second was Hincapie with Camano rounding out the third spot.

Retaining his race lead, Leipheimer wears the leader's jersey and will start last in the all-important time trail in Solvang on Friday. With a time buffer of thirteen seconds and inclement weather possibly on tap once again, Leipheimer will motivate himself to win with the power of his strong Team Astana backing him all the way to the line.

Beyond the Finish Line: Cal Poly is a nationally ranked public university located in San Luis Obispo. Their cycling club, known as "The Wheelmen," provides Cal Poly students the opportunity to experience a fun and healthy cycling lifestyle. They promote recreational riding, commuter transportation, collegiate cycling competition, and interaction with the greater cycling community and general community of SLO. The Wheelmen helps members establish a lifelong love for cycling and involvement in furthering the cycling lifestyle. A great idea for all communities.

Stage 4 Results
1 Dominique Rollin (Can) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team 6.56.08 (31.288 km/h)
2 George Hincapie (USA) High Road 0.18
3 Iker Camano Ortuzar (Spa) Saunier Duval-Scott
4 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) High Road 2.28
5 Mark Cavendish (GBr) High
6 Juan Jose Haedo (Arg) Team CSC
7 Freddie Rodriguez (USA) Rock Racing
8 Alexander Candelario (USA) Kelly Benefit Strategies / Medifast
9 Sbastien Turgot (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
10 Mario Cipollini (Ita) Rock Racing

16 Levi Leipheimer (USA)
24 Christopher Horner (USA)
31 Sergey Ivanov (Rus)
59 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz) 6.32
64 Vladimir Gusev (Rus)
67 Aaron Kemps (Aus)
81 Jani Brajkovic (Slo)
82 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa)

General Classification after stage 4
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 20.44.06 2 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.13
3 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank 0.15
4 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 0.20
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC 0.21
6 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
7 Christian Vandevelde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 0.23
8 Christopher Horner (USA) Astana 0.25
9 Alexandre Moos (Swi) BMC Racing Team 0.29
10 Victor Hugo Pena Grisales (Col) Rock Racing 0.31

28 Jani Brajkovic (Slo) 8.39
39 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) 14.32
50 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) 23.25
55 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz) 26.05
61 Aaron Kemps (Aus) 28.36
91 Sergey Ivanov (Rus) 34.25