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Floyd Landis Carries Lead into Final TOC Stage

Thousand Oaks, CA, February 24, 2006 – With more than 1.2 million fans already having lined the scenic route to support the riders in the Amgen Tour of California as it heads into its conclusion in Redondo Beach tomorrow, California resident Floyd Landis of the Phonak Hearing Systems Team remains the overall leader, with T-Mobile Team’s Olaf Pollack (GER) taking today’s stage six win in a sprint to the finish in Thousand Oaks.

Including an appearance by Lance Armstrong riding in the Discovery Channel team car, thousands of spectators lined today’s start in Santa Barbara and the finish line in Thousand Oaks, home of race title sponsor Amgen, where the three finishing circuits ended with Pollack taking the win in the field sprint to the line.  

An early breakaway of seven riders left the field on a small rise at two miles into the stage. The break gained just over 2' on the up and down course through Santa Barbara. The Discovery-led peloton reeled in all but one of the escapees just before the Clif Bar Sprint Line in Ojai. A member of the original break of seven, Gerolsteiner rider Sven Krauss (GER) stayed off to win the sprint.

At the KOM climb out of Ojai, 14 riders were led by Levi Leipheimer (USA) and his Gerolsteiner teammate Fabian Wegmann (GER). Wegmann took the California Travel and Tourism KOM points followed by Leipheimer, with race leader Landis just behind in fifth over the fan-lined climb. The 14 were reabsorbed by the main field on the descent just before the feed zone.

Sebastian Lang (GER) continued Gerolsteiner's aggressive race tactics by attacking just past the Clif Bar sprint in Santa Paula and building a 2'45 lead over the Balcolm Canyon Road climb. With thousands camping out overnight and lining the climb in true European fashion, the fans also witnessed the increasingly competitive battle for KOM points between Bernhard Kohl (AUT) of T-Mobile and Leipheimer.

With Lang 12'07" down on Landis, Landis’ Phonak team allowed Lang a 3'15" advantage, but after an ill-timed rear wheel puncture at mile 70, Lang lost 1' of his lead. Lang struggled to regain his rhythm and the gap came down rapidly until he succumbed to the field just before entering the finishing circuits.

A bevy of attacks followed, with Krauss gaining a 7” advantage and entering Thousand Oaks on his own. With Team CSC and Health Net Professional Cycling presented by Maxxis keeping the pace high, the lone rider was brought back, setting up the sprint that was narrowly won by Pollack over Italy’s Ricardo Ricco from Prodir-Saunier Duval and Fred Rodriguez (USA) of Davitamon-Lotto.

“The crowds have been comparable [to the Tour de France]; it’s been amazing.  Sometimes I forget if I’m in the Tour de France or the Amgen Tour of California,” said California resident Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), today’s KOM jersey winner.

“Having had more than 1 million fans in attendance at the Amgen Tour of California in the last week is one of the many reasons we can declare this inaugural event a success,” said Shawn Hunter, president of AEG Sports, the presenters of the Amgen Tour of California. “With such positive feedback from the cycling governing body, the cyclists themselves, the cities we rode through, and the dedicated fans, we are now committed more than ever to being even bigger and better in 2007.”

“I have seen and witnessed a truly amazing event,” said Pat McQuaid, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the international governing body of cycling. “It’s important for us to have a race such as this… it would be one of my ambitions to include this on the Pro Tour.”
“Amgen staff are excited to welcome the race to our corporate headquarters in Thousand Oaks and highlight our Breakaway from Cancer initiative, a partnership with The Wellness Community to support cancer patients and their caregivers,” said Jim Daily, senior vice president, North American commercial operations, Amgen. “We at Amgen take this opportunity to recognize the health care professionals and caregivers who make a difference in people’s lives every day. Most of all, we honor patients everywhere who face tremendous challenges with courage and grace. You are our inspiration.”

Earlier today, more than 500 local residents and Amgen staff and their families took part in the Breakaway from Cancer charity ride in Thousand Oaks. Participants raised nearly $38,000 for The Wellness Community. The funds will help provide free services and programs to help cancer patients and caregivers.

George Hincapie (USA) of the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team kept his lead in the Clif Bar Sprint Competition and will wear the Clif Bar Sprint Jersey. With no KOM points on offer in tomorrow’s race, Leipheimer effectively wins the California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountain Jersey. Tom Peterson (USA) of Team TIAA-CREF will wear the Union Bank Best Young Rider Jersey into the final stage, and Lang’s solo breakaway earned him the Adobe Most Aggressive Jersey.

The climactic conclusion of Stage Seven in Redondo Beach tomorrow will determine the overall winner of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California. The riders will compete in a 7.65-mile circuit race, which will allow fans to catch repeated racing action as the riders complete 10 laps, vying for the final stage victory.

For full results, official times, archived footage, photos and play-by-play from today’s stage of the Amgen Tour of California, please visit the official race Web site at www.amgentourofcalifornia.com. For images from today’s stage and the week, please go to www.gettyimages.com. A one-hour race recap will be broadcast on ESPN2 tonight at
10 p.m. PST.

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