A rain-soaked stage that few people saw was won by a cyclist no one saw coming.
Australia's Brett Lancaster, whose primary job on the Cerevlo TestTeam is to lay down the red carpet for his more-celebrated teammates, grabbed some glory of his own Monday by sprinting to the finish line first in downtown Santa Rosa and winning the 110-mile second stage of the eight-stage Amgen Tour of California.
Steady rain drenched the peloton and heavy fog grounded aircraft, meaning the race wasn't televised on Versus and live video wasn't available on the race's Web site. As a result, only the hardy souls dotting the Davis-to-Santa Rosa route saw the riders until Versus captured the final, frantic sprint down Third Street.
And moments after Lancaster, 30, grabbed his first stage win in two years, he flashed two fingers — a right-handed gesture that resembled a sideways peace sign — in celebration.
Asked what those two fingers signified, the recently thawed Lancaster smiled, "I don't know. It was so cold probably those were the only two fingers that would come out."
The weather, combined with four significant climbs, made for a miserable day for the 125 finishers. For example, Mark Cavendish, the brilliant British sprinter who sported the leader's yellow jersey, ended the day more than 17 minutes behind Lancaster.
But star-studded Team RadioShack, headlined by Lance Armstrong and Santa Rosa's Levi Leipheimer, the race's three-time defending champion, avoided disaster.
Five team members, including Armstrong and Leipheimer, finished Monday in the 27-person lead group. The next group finished 77 seconds behind. Armstrong and Leipheimer enter today's 113-mile third stage from San Francisco to Santa Cruz 10 seconds behind Lancaster.
"Of course, we had the advantage to have a guy like Levi who knows this course like his back pocket," RadioShack manager Johan Bruyneel said. "The race comes down to 25 riders now and we have five of them, so that's a good position."
Lancaster found himself in unfamiliar position late Monday afternoon. He is what's known in cycling as a lead-out rider, meaning he attempts to set up stage wins for Cervelo's top sprinters, Heinrich Haussler and Thor Hushovd. But Hushovd is injured (broken collarbone) and Haussler couldn't keep pace with the lead pack Monday.
Their absence meant Lancaster was on his own. And the 2004 Olympic gold medalist in team pursuit and winner of the prologue at the 2005 Giro d'Italia remembered what to do when the spotlight descended on him.
"It doesn't always come up too often because normally Heinrich would be there or Thor," Lancaster said. "You've got to take these days as they come and give it your best shot."
Another rider who delivered his best shot Monday was Thomas Rabou of Team Type 1, which was created in 2005 to help raise diabetes awareness.
Rabou, 27, from the Netherlands, captured the King of the Mountain jersey given to the top climber. And in discussing his memorable day, it was clear Rabou had at least one advantage over most of the field: The bone-chilling weather didn't bother him.
"I didn't get cold at all, actually," Rabou said. "There were many crowds, especially on the climbs, and they made me feel warm inside. In Holland, where I live, there is a lot of rain, so I'm quite used to these type of circumstances."
DJ's River Discoveries
The 2,215 pounds of trash DJ Woodbury pulled from the Petaluma River included:
- 17 syringes
- two TV monitors
- two tires
- hundreds of tennis balls
- thousands of bottles and cans