Tour of California: Petaluma's Cozza endures crash

"The Tour of California is always great," said the pro from Petaluma. "It's like it wants to rain or something, but it adds more excitement, I guess. It sucks when you crash, but at least there were no broken bones."

Cozza has endured more painful crashes in his six years of professional racing. The worst was in February when he opened the racing season by breaking his collarbone on the first day of the Tour of Qatar and missed a month of racing following surgery.

Back in racing shape for the Tour of California, Cozza was feeling strong after rolling into Santa Rosa at the end of the 110-mile second stage that began in Davis.

"It's been a challenging year, but I'm getting back up to fitness," he said. "I feel like this is the start of my season. It's really awesome."

In his role as a so-called Domestique, Cozza's job is to help team Garmin-Transitions' top riders get to the front. Cozza and the five other support riders break the wind and otherwise protect David Zabriskie and Thomas Danielson.

Monday's toughest stretch was up Oakville Grade leaving Napa County. Riders couldn't get off their seats to push up the steep ascent because their rear wheels would wobble on the slick road.

Steep and winding Trinity Grade was next.

A handful of riders crashed on the downhill side. Cozza and several others couldn't avoid the pileup and also went down.

Cozza's bike, with a broken frame, suffered more than he did. The rain actually helped soften the fall.

"Crashing's just a part of the sport," Cozza said. "When it's wet, you slide better."

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