Mark Cavendish wins; Tom Boonen crashes; Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer safely home

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HTC-Columbia’s world sprint champion Mark Cavendish, as he predicted, won the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California on Sunday. Cavendish whizzed past the finish line in front of the State Capitol in Sacramento just in front of Saxo Bank’s JJ Haedo.

The stage, which began in Nevada City, featured a bumper-car final circuit with two crashes in the final mile and a half that brought down former U.S. champion George Hincapie,who is riding for new team BMC this year, and popular Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen. Boonen lost big chunks of skin off his shoulder, arm, thigh and leg, and Hincapie landed hard on his back and head. But Boonen and Hincapie recorded finishing times, and preliminary medical reports say they will be racing in tomorrow’s stage from Davis to Santa Rosa even if they have a little less skin.

Three-time champion Levi Leipheimer of RadioShack and his teammate Lance Armstrong both finished safely in the bunch, upright and smiling.

Cavendish, besides being a great sprinter, is a good huckster. He held up a copy of his biography, ‘Boy Racer,’ which recently went on sale in the United States.

He also said he is not yet at the top of his form, though it was Haedo who ran out of gas at the finish. As Cavendish said, his team ‘took control of the race all day. We kept the gap down and controlled it to the finish. We’ve got the experience not to take over too early or too late.’


More at later.

-- Diane Pucin