Haedo — not Levi — is king of Stage 1

Despite the palpable hopes of legions of fans lining the streets of downtown Santa Rosa, hometown hero and 2007 race winner Levi Leipheimer failed to secure a win Monday in Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California.

Instead, Argentina’s Juan Jose “J.J.” Haedo, 27, sprinted to victory in the final, breathless seconds of the 97-mile road race that started in Sausalito.

Haedo, part of a peloton that completed the course in 4 hours,

2 minutes, 29 seconds, sprinted across the finish line three bike lengths ahead of German rider Gerald Ciolek of High Road. German Heinrich Haussler of Gerolsteiner came in third, followed by Canadian Dominique Rollin of Toyota-United and Italian Matteo Tosatto of Quick Step.

Haedo said he was thrilled with his stage win — his fifth in the three-year history of the Tour — but conceded he probably wouldn’t be taking Leipheimer’s title as King of Santa Rosa anytime soon.

“He lives there, so I say he’s the king,” he said with a chuckle.

Meanwhile, 26-year-old Swiss Fabian Cancellara, Haedo’s CSC teammate, retained his status as the race’s overall leader, two seconds ahead of American Tyler Farrar of Slipstream-Chipotle. England’s Bradley Wiggins of High Road is stillfourth, four seconds back.

The moment was clearly a proud one for Cancellara, the reigning world time-trial champion who was 15th in Stage 1.

“To be still in this yellow jersey, it’s beautiful,” he said.

Still, the race is far from over for Leipheimer, the Astana rider who came in 20th in Stage 1 but remains fourth overall, six seconds back. Leip-

heimer said he was astonished by the sea of fans, many of them yelling his name and waving signs reading “Go Levi.”

“The race has grown tremendously during the past few years,” Leipheimer said. “It’s bigger and better than ever.”

It was another Santa Rosa native, BMC’s Jackson Stewart, who made a name for himself on Presidents Day. Stewart broke away from the pack 17 miles into the race. He wasn’t caught by the peloton until more than 60 miles later, after building as much as a 12-minute lead and pocketing prizes along the way — three Herbalife sprints and a Category 3 King of the Mountains climb.

Monday’s nail-biting finish came minutes after 34-year-old George Hincapie, a member of High Road and 12-time Tour de France participant, crashed within 300 meters of the finish line. Hincapie wasn’t down longand according to UCI rules, was given the same time as the rest of his pack, finishing 75th.

In the hours before the finish, fans were treated to the race’s first women’s criterium, won by Brooke Miller of Team Tibco.

tbarak@examiner.com

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