Rock Racing’s Mario Cipollini tries to avoid the crash by Mark Cavendish (Team High Road).
Santa Clarita, Calif. (Feb. 24, 2008) — A crash in the final miles of Saturday’s Stage 6 of the Amgen Tour of California dashed the hopes of Rock Racing’s star sprinters, Mario Cipollini and Fred Rodriguez.
The pair tumbled to the pavement in the final 2.5 miles (4 km) of the 105-mile (169.6 km) race from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita when Mark Cavendish (Team High Road) crashed in front of them. Cipollini and Rodriguez, who were riding directly behind Cavendish, could not avoid the pile-up.
Mario Cipollini attempts to remount after the crash while Rock Racing teammate Fred Rodriguez is still down.
“I had nowhere to go,” Rodriguez said. “I basically T-boned Mario and then went head-first into the pavement.”
While Rodriguez waited for repairs to be made to his bike, Cipollini and Cavendish remounted and chased back, only to be penalized later for drafting. The penalty cost Cavendish the stage win, while Cipollini was relegated to 75th on the stage.
Despite his injuries, Rodriguez limped home to finish more than 12 minutes after the stage winner, Luciano Andre Pagliarini (Saunier-Duval). Rodriguez has extensive road rash and a sore back and right leg from the crash, while Cipollini has road rash on his right hip. However, both are expected to start Sunday’s final stage – a 93-mile (105 km) race from Santa Clarita to Pasadena.
Victor Hugo Peña remains Rock Racing’s highest-placed rider on the overall classification. The Colombian is 12th overall, three minutes and 17 seconds behind race leader Levi Leipheimer (Astana).
Cipollini said he looks forward to one more opportunity to score a victory in his ongoing comeback after nearly three years away from the sport. He nearly pulled it off Tuesday, finishing third in a soggy sprint in the rain in Sacramento on Stage 2.
“It is no fun when you crash in the last 10 kilometers and have to chase back,” he said. “After I made it back, I was in good position in the last 200 meters, but my body and right leg were stiff from the crash. I am doing OK and tomorrow is one more chance to try and get a win.”
Rock Racing’s Mario Cipollini regained the peloton after his crash and was poised to contest the final sprint.
Rock Racing, which began the race with only five riders, is one of only four teams (of 17) still competing with the same number of riders that started the eight-day, eight-stage race. On the eve of the event, Rock Racing was informed by race organizers that three of its riders – American Tyler Hamilton, Columbian Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla – would not be able to start.
All photos courtesy of Vero Image.