February 22, 2007
California Cricket: Bettini takes ToC Stage 4
On Thursday, Paolo Bettini got his first-ever win in the United States. He narrowly outsprinted world under-23 champion Gerald Ciolek of T-Mobile, with CSC's Juan José Haedo third.
Christophe Laurent of Credit Agricole joined a host of US continental riders for the day's primary breakaway, and therefore Laurent took over the lead in the king of the mountains competition. Also on board were Kirk O'Bee, Alejandro Acton, Aaron Olson Lucas Euser, Hilton Clarke, and Sean Sullivan. The peloton was content to let this group get away, and only Discovery Channel worked until very late in the stage, when Liquigas and Rabobank joined in to try and give their sprinters a chance. Finally, with 5 kilometers to ride and CSC driving the field, the break was captured.
Ciolek was first around the day's last corner, with Bettini on his wheel, but there was no denying the rainbow jersey, who took a photo finish that had the top three spread over about a wheel's width.
Bettini complimented T-Mobile's young German:
It was very hard for me to close that gap and the sprint was close by only a few centimeters. I was fortunate to have the power to come back to him today. He is very young and very fast and with experience he is going to be a very big rider."
Levi Leipheimer maintained the race lead, although Jens Voigt threatened to gap the field while setting up Haedo for the sprint.