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Haedo Wins Stage 1 - Leipheimer Keeps Yellow Jersey

Santa Rosa, CA February 19, 2006 – A crowd of more than 130,000 from Sausalito to Santa Rosa watched the first stage of the Amgen Tour of California, won by Argentinean sprinter Juan José Haedo of the Toyota-United Pro cycling team. Santa Rosa resident Levi Leipheimer (USA) kept his lead in the inaugural international professional cycling race throughout California from February 19-26.

On a stage that saw Leipheimer’s Gerolsteiner team set tempo for most of the day’s 81.5 miles – from the first climb out of Sausalito through the Muir Woods National Monument until the sprinters’ teams took over on the first of three finishing circuits in downtown Santa Rosa – Haedo won with a significant gap over second place Olaf Pollack (GER) of T-Mobile Team and third-place Australian Stuart O’Grady of Team CSC.

A two-man breakaway composed of KodakGallery.com/Sierra Nevada Pro Cycling Team’s Jackson Stewart  (USA) and Jean Marc Marino (FRA) of Credit Agricole escaped the field three miles before the first Clif Bar Sprint of the race in Point Reyes Station. The pair gained a maximum advantage of 3’22” and stayed away for 42 miles until being caught by the Gerolsteiner led field on the approach into Santa Rosa.

“The team worked for me to stay safe in the front, and then I was on my own [for] the last part.  I almost crashed at about 1[kilometer], but I really decided to go and win the race.  I just went as hard as I could and I went a little bit early.  It was really good, eh”, said Haedo. "I'm really surprised that I had that big of a gap.  With nine ProTour teams, I was really surprised and at the same time, I worked for that, and I think I kicked at the right spot.  It was very emotional.”

With his win, Haedo also took the lead in the Clif Bar Sprint Competition and will wear the Clif Bar Sprint jersey during Stage Two. Bernhard Kohl (AUT) of   T-Mobile Team keeps the California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountain Jersey and Colavita Olive/Sutter Home’s Zachary Grabowski (USA) stays in the Union Bank Best Young Rider Jersey. Stewart earned the Adobe Most Aggressive Rider Jersey for his role in the breakaway. Leipheimer retains his lead in the general classification and will wear the Amgen Leader Jersey for a second straight day.

“I’ve been dreaming for months, training the whole winter, every day, thinking about the possibility of winning the prologue and bringing the yellow jersey into my hometown, and then to actually realize that dream is something I can’t describe.  It’s an amazing feeling,” said Leipheimer. “I got reports last night that they were expecting 50,000 people today and [thought] well, that’s maybe a little bit much.  But I think you saw today that was at least as many people out there.  It was very impressive to see the support for the race and for me.  I’m overwhelmed and very grateful.  It’s just a special day for me,” he added.

“We could not have scripted this any better, with Levi riding into his hometown in the leader jersey. It was a fantastic day for the event and for cycling,” said Shawn Hunter, president of AEG Sports. “We knew we had something special here, and I think it is exceeding all of our expectations.  It was very special, and we still think our biggest and best days are ahead.”

Amgen’s vice president of Corporate Communications and Philanthropy Phyllis Piano presented the Amgen Leader Jersey to Leipheimer. “It was a great honor to present the leader jersey to Levi Leipheimer on behalf of Amgen today.  As the title sponsor of the Amgen Tour of California, we would like to extend a special thanks to the city of Santa Rosa, home to an avid cycling community, for being such an enthusiastic host city.”

Tomorrow’s stage is expected to test the riders on a hilly 94.9-mile stage from Martinez to San Jose.

For more full results, official times and archived footage, photos and play-by-play from today’s stage of the Amgen Tour of California, please visit the official race website at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com. For images from today’s stage, please go to www.gettyimages.com.

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AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world.  AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Home Depot Center, The Manchester Evening News Arena and NOKIA Theatre Times Square; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), five Major League Soccer franchises, two hockey franchises operated in Europe, management of privately held shares of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angdeles Sparks (WNBA) and the Amgen Tour of California cycling road race debuting in San Francisco on February 19th; AEG LIVE, the organization’s live-entertainment division, is a collection of companies dedicated to all aspects of live contemporary music performance, touring and a variety of programming and multi-media production.  Additionally, the company has begun fully developing the 28-acre Millennium Dome and adjacent property located in the eastern part of London along the Thames River and will create the O2, a new arena within the ‘Dome’ and additional arenas, on a 50-acre site in the heart of Berlin and Spring Center in Kansas City, Missouri; stadiums in Bridgeview, Illinois and Harrison, New Jersey.  For more information, visit AEG today at www.aegworldwide.com.