It was the slick and treacherous roads from Santa Rosa to Sacramento that delivered a new leader in the Amgen Tour of California on Tuesday — and one that is decidedly unafraid of a little rain.
Tyler Farrar, a 23-year-old sprinter from team Slipstream Chipotle, grew up pedaling the drizzly streets of Washington and currently lives in rainy Belgium. After being zipped into his yellow race leader jersey by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Farrar said the miserable conditions handed him an advantage.
“This is my kind of weather, the kind of weather I excel in,” said Farrar, whose time bonuses in the Herbalife sprints helped secure the lead. Farrar leads Fabian Cancellara of Team CSC by one second. Cancellara held the yellow jersey for the first two days.
The Stage 2 winner, Quick Step’s Tom Boonen, sprinted ahead as the peloton circled the state Capitol and crossed the finish line in 5 hours, 9 minutes, 35 seconds — a split-second before Heinrich Haussler of German team Gerolsteiner. Boonen is four seconds behind Farrar, who finished in the lead group.
Unlike Farrar, Belgian Boonen made it clear he sailed to victory despite the dreary conditions, not because of them.
“Nobody likes this weather. Nobody likes to race in it,” he said. “It’s dangerous. There are always some crazy guys who like to pass in descent.”
Boonen, 27, was behind England’s Mark Cavendish of High Road when he decided to put his all into the sprint that would ultimately lead him to victory.
“This sprint was one of my best sprints ever,” Boonen said. “I didn’t believe in it when I started because Cavendish is not a regular rider.”
High Road members Bradley Wiggins and Gerald Ciolek are now fourth and fifth, respectively. Levi Leipheimer, last year’s Tour winner, slipped to sixth place overall after finishing 21st Tuesday.
Italian Mario “Lion King” Cipollini, 40, placed third in Stage 2, a 116-mile race that includes the grueling ascent of Trinity Grade a dozen miles outside Santa Rosa.
It was a triumphant moment for the legendary rider, who came out of two-year retirement for this event after meeting Rock Racing owner Michael Ball in a Las Vegas club.
“Mike asked me if I wanted to race and I thought, ‘This is another crazy person,’” Cipollini said through a translator. “I was more interested in the beautiful women at the club.”
Another standout in Tuesday’s race was BMC’s Scott Nydam. The 30-year-old Sebastopol resident broke away from the peloton four miles into the ride and wasn’t caught for more than 90 miles. Nydam won both King of the Mountain prizes and two Herbalife sprint bonuses along the way.