A smashing finish 

The fast-paced but well-disciplined order of the Amgen Tour of California’s peloton descended into a bloody melee Monday as riders spilled onto the streets of Santa Rosa in a huge crash in the final leg of Stage 1.

Hometown hero Levi Leipheimer will remain in the yellow jersey as race leader following the pileup just yards into the second lap of the closing three-lap circuit. Judges ruled that because of the crash, the circuit race would be eliminated from the overall standings — yet still count for the stage finish — and riders’ overall places would be determined by their standing as they entered the first lap.

Leipheimer, who won the prologue in San Francisco by barely more than a second Sunday, gave his fellow Santa Rosans a sense of deja vu as he wore the yellow jersey into his hometown for the second year in a row and is still about a second ahead of rookie Jason Donald.

While Leipheimer will retain the overall lead, the stage victory went to Graeme Brown, an Australian and two-time Olympic track gold medalist riding for the Netherlands’ Rabobank. He beat New Zealander Greg Henderson of T-Mobile across the line by just 4 centimeters in a photo finish. Race announcers initially said Henderson won.

"I thought I did have it won," Henderson said. "One million people told me I did win it, but then 1 million and one told me I didn’t."

Leipheimer, who was caught in the pileup toward the race’s end, said the crash started when a T-Mobile rider hit one of the raised bumps in the middle of the road and slipped off his handlebars to his right.

"He pretty much took out everyone to the right of him," Leipheimer said.

Bedraggled riders who were involved in the crash grimaced as they crossed the finish line, blood streaming down some arms and legs. The asphalt ripped some of their shorts to reveal pink and black patches of road rash. In stage races such as the Tour, riders must finish each stage in order to advance to the next.

In another upset Monday, American favorite David Zabriskie of Team CSC, the Emeryville resident who took second in 2006, was taken to the hospital after he hit his head in a crash about 40 miles from the finish line. It was unclear exactly how the crash happened, but Dr. Ramin Modabber of the Tour’s medical team said that the raised roadbed exacerbated the injury.

"There was a small ditch he fell into that allowed him to hit his head," Modabber said.

amartin@examiner.com

For the latest news and features about the race, be sure to check our special Amgen Tour of California page.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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