Haedo gets hat trick

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A daunting hill and the recent memory of Monday’s nasty pileup combined to make for a subdued and businesslike Stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California, in which Levi Leipheimer held on to the overall lead while Juan Jose “J.J.” Haedo took the stage victory.

The Argentinian Haedo, riding for Denmark’s Team CSC, threw his arms up as he crossed the finish line of the 115.8-mile stage. Theride spanned four counties and included the race’s most severe climb so far in the form of Trinity Grade, just 17 miles from the start. Unlike Monday’s Stage 1 photo finish, Haedo won by a comfortable two bicycle lengths.

“I was in Stuey [teammate Stuart O’Grady]’s wind,” Haedo said. “All I have to do is follow him and the last 200 meters … that’s when I started the sprint and I was lucky to keep it.”

This is Haedo’s third stage victory in two years of the Tour of California, a record in the young event. Last year, he won Stages 1 and 4. Luca Paolini, an Italian riding for Italy’s Liquigas team, took second, while Norwegian Thor Hushvold of France’s Credit Agricole was third.

Jason Donald, the 27-year-old American first-year pro on Team Slipstream who held the winning time trial time until the last heat in Sunday’s prologue, remained in second place with an overall time of 9 hours, 2 minutes, 47 seconds, trailing Leipheimer by just one second. San Jose’s Ben Jacques-Maynes of Priority Health is in third place, five seconds behind the lead.

But not every rider could make a success of Sacramento and it was to Michael Sayer’s chagrin when he crashed just outside the final circuit race on the way into his hometown. Sayer’s voice broke and his eyes filled with tears after the race.

“It was a tough day for me,” the American rider for BMC said. But his tears quickly turned to jokes as he described the crash: “I tried to give a poll a kiss.”

The race finished at the steps of the Capitol, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger shook the hands of the day’s top riders and promised the state’s support in hosting the race “year after year after year.”

amartin@examiner.com

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