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Tour of California - 2.HC
USA, February 14-22, 2009
Prologue - February 14: Sacramento (ITT), 3.9 km/2.4 mi
Complete live report
Live coverage by Peter Hymas and Laura Weislo with reporting from Mark Zalewski and Kirsten Robbins in Sacramento
Welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 4th Tour of California! There is no way this won't be the biggest, most serious edition of this race - just a glance down the start list it looks more like a Grand Tour than a 2.HC in its fourth year.
13:28 PST Today's prologue is short, fast and will be made more technical by some high winds. It's about 50F and cloudy with some gusty winds but a steady breeze which will hit the riders as they round that 180-degree turn in the first half mile.
13:34 PST Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing) is at the 1km mark and looking strong.
13:35 PST The first rider off, Glen Chadwick is in with a quick 4:53.76. Zajicek is next to come to the line.
13:37 PST It's a new best time for Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) - 4:50.56. To put it all into perspective, it's 0.1km shorter than what Taylor Phinney did yesterday - and he went 4:15. But that's on a closed velodrome without corners. But we'll be seeing some faster times as we get down the list to be sure - nothing against the effort of Zajicek!
13:38 PST Nick Reistad (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) comes in a full six seconds slower than our fastest time. This really is a course for a prologue specialist. Can anyone name a prologue specialist in this start list?
13:39 PST Hmmm. Perhaps one Fabian Cancellara? He was our winner in last year's prologue. It will be more than two hours before we see the former world time trial champion take the start.
13:41 PST Zajicek's time has held through the next few riders. Alejandro Alberto Borrajo (Colavita / Sutter Home p/b Cooking Light) came in a second slower, Ian Macgregor (Team Type 1) went over five minutes, but now Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) storms across the line with a new best time - 4:38.53!
13:45 PST Jacques-Maynes has set a time which should stand for a while, and it has. John Murphy (OUCH p/b Maxxis), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team), Brett Lancaster (Cervélo TestTeam) and Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) all tried but haven't managed to get under 4:40.
13:46 PST Lancaster, a member of the Australian Olympic gold medal team pursuit squad from 2004 goes a 4:43.
13:48 PST Lancaster slots into third overall so far, while Stef Clement (Rabobank) comes across a couple seconds slower to move into fourth ahead of Zajicek.
13:49 PST Oh, but we were wrong about Jacques-Maynes because the big Canadian Svein Tuft has given him the smack down - 4.37.06! The Garmin-Slipstream rider was second at the world time trial last year, so it's not surprising he's done well.
13:53 PST Adam Hansen, Gustav Larsson and Gregory Rast all fail to overcome the time of Tuft. The Garmin team has been focusing much of its efforts on time trials in order to win the team time trials at the Giro and Tour de France, so we're expecting to see quite a few of them at the top of the results sheet today.
13:54 PST A prologue is a bit like an hors d'oeurve - it will be just a taste of what we'll see in the final general classification at the end of this Tour of California. The rider who wins yellow today may not be the overall winner, but the man who will take home the prize in Escondido should be well up in today's stage.
13:55 PST Brad Huff (Jelly Belly Cycling Team) comes in with 4:40 and change, a good effort for the Missouri native.
It's not easy chasing down riders before a stage like this - they're all pretty intensely focused on the short and brutal effort. But Kirsten Robbins caught up with the first rider off, Glen Chadwick (Rock Racing), after his race. He said, "I'm pretty happy that it's sunny and not rainy, but it's very windy. It seems as if it's getting more windy as the day goes along.
13:59 PST Dominique Rollin is out on the course powering a big gear.
14:01 PST Rollin will be working this week for sprinter Thor Hushovd and won't have the green light to go on breaks like last year, but he's been given the green light to ride hard in the prologue.
14:02 PST Mark Cavendish is on the course and will be looking for a good time. He'll want to stay close to the top of the leader board in order to possibly take over the leader's jersey in the upcoming stages.
14:05 PST Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad) is approaching the finish line.
14:07 PST Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia - Highroad) has blazed through the prologue with the second best time so far today, 0.714" behind Tuft.
14:08 PST Oscar Sevilla (Rock Racing) is out on the course battling the stiff winds.
14:08 PST Oscar Sevilla is on the finishing stretch, facing a strong headwind.
14:10 PST Sevilla finished in 13th, at 4:46.685, not bad for the climber.
14:11 PST Bradley White (OUCH Presented By Maxxis) has left the start house.
14:13 PST The Slovenian Tadej Valjavec (AG2R La Mondiale) has just rolled down the start ramp.
14:15 PST Jacopo Guarnieri (Liquigas) is doing the prologue on a standard road bike, in keeping with the team saying they're in California for training.
14:18 PST Steven Cozza (Garmin - Slipstream) is on the course, riding for a team deep with time trial talent.
14:19 PST Cozza could be a contender for the best young rider jersey.
14:19 PST If we look at the top ten, we'll see a mix of crack time trialists: Tuft and Clement have been on the podium at worlds and sprinters: Cavendish, Barredo, Rollin. The time trialists are looking to use their specialty to take a stage while the sprinters are keen to stay close to the top of the standings in order to nab the overall lead in the next few stages with time bonuses on the finish line.
14:20 PST Temperatures are dropping now that the sun has disappeared behind a thick bank of clouds. The wind is now a head wind for half the course, but a tailwind for the start and finish.
14:21 PST Christopher Horner (Astana) is on the course digging deep, but with the trademark perma-grin still on his face, no matter what the effort.
14:22 PST Grischa Niermann (Rabobank) just snuck into the top ten, 6.910 seconds behind Tuft.
14:24 PST New best time from Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia - Highroad)! 4:36.962!
14:25 PST Chris Horner finished in the top-ten in seventh place, 4.452 seconds behind new leader Mark Renshaw.
14:28 PST Tom Peterson (Garmin - Slipstream) will be starting soon at 2:34pm local time - he has been setting some good numbers at the team camp.
14:29 PST Mark Renshaw, our current leader, was a three-time junior world champion on the track back in 2000. He switched over to the road and was on the Credit Agricole squad leading out Thor Hushovd last year. Now he's with Columbia-Highroad since the French squad's demise, riding against his former sprinter who is on the Cervelo TestTeam.
14:30 PST A child was out on the course with a piece of chalk, adding some last minute touches to his favorite rider's name on the street. Better watch out, though, we don't want to see any mishaps of rider/spectator collisions today. Or any day, for that matter.
14:32 PST Peter Latham (Bissell Pro Cycling) just clocked a fine 4:41.14 for seventh place.
14:33 PST Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team) finished in 4:48.681.
The start list today was arranged somewhat randomly, with designated team leaders, world champions and other big names weighted toward the end. You'll see Stuart O'Grady coming up in about 20 minutes, while Oscar Freire (Rabobank) will be near the end at 15:22 Local time.
14:35 PST Oh no...Thomas Peterson (Garmin - Slipstream) has missed his start time!
14:36 PST Michael Barry (Team Columbia - Highroad) is out on the course.
14:37 PST Thomas Peterson (Garmin - Slipstream) has left the start house, but he missed his start time, so he may be looking simply to make the time cut instead of contest the stage overall.
14:37 PST We're not sure why, but Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre starts in about ten minutes. Perhaps he gave up a later start slot since he's had the flu and is not feeling up to snuff. His teammate Thor Hushovd has the latest slot for the Cervelo TestTeam.
14:39 PST Big Thor, the mighty god of thunder, has won prologues in the Tour de France and Paris-Nice, and is a prime candidate to take the win today. He'll be very close to the top at the very least.
14:41 PST The current leader, Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia - Highroad), is cooling down right now on the trainer, surrounded by the media. Bob Stapleton has come by and congratulated him on his ride.
14:43 PST Ouch...Thomas Peterson (Garmin - Slipstream) crossed the line in 6:35.08. That will definitely garner lanterne rouge honors for the day, not the way Peterson wanted to start the Tour of California.
14:45 PST Apparently there isn't a time cut in effect for today's prologue, so Thomas Peterson will not be eliminated. Surely, though, he'll be hearing some tough words from team director Jonathan Vaughters about his mistake.
14:46 PST Two minutes until Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) makes his Tour of California start.
14:47 PST Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) is out on the course. We'll see what the GC contender can do today in a short, flat, all-out effort.
14:49 PST Jonathan Patrick McCarty (OUCH p/b Maxxis) has crossed the line well off the winning pace of Mark Renshaw.
14:50 PST Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) looks smooth, powering out of every corner and motoring the straightaways with a high cadence.
14:50 PST Sastre is taking the turns pretty quickly - he's using the entire road, cutting the apex tight and then exiting on the far side of the road. He certainly doesn't look like a man weakened by a bout with the flu last week.
14:52 PST Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) had finished more than 20 seconds off the pace of Mark Renshaw. We'll see how his effort stacks up against the other GC favorites as the day progresses.
14:53 PST Thomas Danielson (Garmin - Slipstream) is out on the course. He'll be looking forward to the the mountains, particularly Palomar Mountain, which he crossed in the snow earlier this week on a training ride. Hopefully the roads will be clear at the summit when the stage arrives.
14:55 PST Stuart O'Grady (Team Saxo Bank) is on the course. The powerful Aussie is quite capable of putting in an excellent ride today.
14:56 PST Thomas Danielson (Garmin - Slipstream) stops the clock in 35th place, approximately 13 seconds off the pace of Mark Renshaw.
14:59 PST Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia - Highroad) cracked the top-twenty with a 19th place finish. Team Columbia has some extremely aerodynamic time trial bikes, with the front brake situated behind the fork and a design somewhat resembling a fairing at the front end as well. It must have passed UCI muster, though, since Lövkvist and his Team Columbia teammates have been allowed to start.
15:06 PST Andy Jacques-Maynes, brother of Ben, comes through looking pretty winded. 3.9km or just 2.4 miles may not sound like much, but at the speeds these riders are going it's a lung-busting effort.
15:09 PST Thomas Frei comes through outside the top ten, the BMC rider's black and white jersey will mix in a bit confusingly with the two other teams which are sporting a black and white theme. Cervelo is predominantly black with white and red, while Saxo Bank is also black and white and red, with white as the main color.
15:10 PST Andy Schleck is underway! The Saxo Bank rider who finished second in the Giro d'Italia in 2007 is not exactly a specialist at this distance, but will be looking to stay within shouting distance of the other GC contenders.
15:10 PST Andy Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling) actually snuck inside the top ten with a 4'42.29. Good work!
15:12 PST Tyler Farrar (Garmin) is out on course and simply pounding the pedals in an attempt to repeat last year's performance. He finished on the podium in the prologue a year ago, and took the leader's yellow jersey through sprint bonuses for a day.
15:13 PST 4.39.41! Just about good enough for fifth place for young Tyler Farrar.
15:16 PST Davide Frattini (Colavita / Sutter Home) is out on course, looking for a good result for his sweetie - who happen to know is at the race today - perhaps a win for Valentine's day? He's engaged to marry our own Kirsten Robbins!
15:18 PST Young Andy Schleck came through with a 4.52.013. Not bad - not good enough for the leader board at the moment, but certainly a solid result which will keep him in contention for the overall.
15:19 PST Rory Sutherland (OUCH p/b Maxxis) is out on course and looking powerful. He's done well at Tour of California, finishing on the podium in a stage last year to Pasadena. Here he's working for one Floyd Landis.
15:20 PST Frattini is in and over the five minute barrier, were his legs weakened with love? Nah, this isn't his type of race. He's a man for the breakaways and will be looking to sneak into one like he did last year a few times.
15:21 PST The Bissell team has been doing quite well - Jeremy Vennell has slipped into tenth overall, just edging out Andy Jacques-Maynes with a 4.41.52.
Bissell has had four riders in the top ten - three of them are still there!
15:26 PST Juan José Haedo (Team Saxo Bank) is out on course now, and Brian Vandbourg is coming to the line for Liquigas. Vandbourg was once in the hot seat at the world time trial championships, but got pushed off the podium by David Zabriskie and Fabian Cancellara.
15:27 PST Wow! Three-time World Champion Oscar Freire is taking ToC seriously this year - he's in with a 4.40.31. That should make the Rabobank team happy!
15:28 PST Haedo is pumping the pedals with his massive quads, pushing a big gear and sprinting to the line...
15:30 PST 4'43.36 for Haedo - outside the top ten. Any sprinter who wants to take yellow in the next few stages is going to have to get the edge on Mark Cavendish, who is currently in third place overall here. He's less than a second off Renshaw's time. The only sprinters who might be able to get him are Boonen and Hushovd who are coming up shortly.
15:31 PST We haven't talked about ol' Tom Boonen yet. The Quick Step sprinter is on good form coming off a couple stage wins at the Tour of Qatar. That race gave him plenty of speed work, so he might be in a good position to do well here.
15:33 PST Thor, our big Norwegian god of thunder Hushovd is in the start house. Four minutes and change from now we'll see if he can overtake his former teammate and right hand lead-out man, Renshaw.
15:33 PST Robert Gesink (Rabobank), the winner of last year's stage into San Jose is down the ramp now, but is unlikely to challenge on this distance. He needs a big, steep hill where he can use his light weight to his advantage.
15:34 PST Tom Zirbel has come in with a great time - 4.37.93 - good enough for fourth place overall.
15:35 PST Wow! Zirbel is now in fourth to put three Bissell riders back into the top ten. What has this team been doing to get so fast?
15:36 PST Here comes mighty Thor and the clock is going to stop at 4.36.04!!! A new best time for Hushovd!
15:38 PST We've got Tyler Hamilton on course, with Kirchen, Boonen and Hincapie. Can any of these men upset Hushovd and set a new best time?
15:38 PST David Zabriskie joins them on course in his stars and stripes skin suit.
15:38 PST Boonen is heading for the line, but overshadowing his arrival is the departure of LANCE ARMSTRONG! The crowd goes wild.
15:39 PST Lance is off!! the crowd is just deafening. We know who they're here to see.
Lance is pedaling with his characteristically high cadence.
15:41 PST George Hincapie is in with a 4.36.25 - second place! The times are really starting to fall now! Cancellara is on course.
15:42 PST The mayhem is following Lance Armstrong around the course. It's almost as if the Beatles are here and it's' 1964. People are screaming their fool heads off.
15:43 PST David Zabriskie comes in with a new best time! 4.35.55.
15:43 PST Here comes Lance and he's got a great time - will he take the lead?
15:44 PST The crowd goes absolutely crazy as he comes in near the best time, but just off - 4.37.17.
Leipheimer is in the start house, and Landis is on course. Vande Velde, the Garmin-Slipstream leader has a disappointing ride with 4.41.55. Outside the top ten.
15:46 PST WOW! Can this be right? Cancellara has powered through with a 4.32.90!
15:46 PST Fabian Cancellara just smashed that time of Zabriskie and is now heading for the hot seat.
15:46 PST Ivan Basso will be the next rider to finish, and we can bet he won't come close to the big Swiss rider's time.
15:47 PST How cool is it for a rider like Tom Zirbel to have his name just two lines below 7-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong on the results sheet?
15:48 PST Floyd Landis is heading for the line now - looking fast and taking the turns in his aero bars...
15:48 PST How could we forget about Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad)? He comes in fast - 4.35.69!
Just as we said that Zirbel is knocked out of the top ten by Rogers. And now Floyd Landis comes through with a rather disappointing 4.53.26.
15:50 PST He's going to be close! Leipheimer powers in for a 4.34.11!
15:52 PST Wow - what a finish. Leipheimer unbelievably overtook Zabriskie to complete the stage podium in second. Fabian Cancellara, not in the rainbow bands of world champion this year after he sat out the Stuttgart event, rides into the yellow jersey for the second year in a row.
15:57 PST So I guess we know how Lance Armstrong's form is going after three years out of competition, and it's going quite well, thank you very much. Inside the top ten in a discipline which isn't exactly something he's been known for excelling in? This could be a VERY interesting year.
15:58 PST But how about Leipheimer? He's stamped his authority on the leadership of the Astana team, and it's very important for him to gain the confidence of his team and earn their respect and desire to bury themselves to help him win.
15:59 PST And Mick Rogers? He won three world time trial championships, but hasn't been exactly dominant as of late. But he seems to be back on form and let's hope his bad luck with injury and health issues has ended.
16:00 PST Everyone expects riders like Cancellara and Zabriskie to be at the top of the heap in a prologue, but what about George Hincapie sandwiched in between Hushovd and Boonen? That's a great result for Big George, and bodes well for his chances in the GC.
16:01 PST Hats off for the top ten, including Mark Renshaw who may have earned his role as Cervelo's top sprinter, now out from under the shadow of Hushovd, as well as Svein Tuft and my personal hero, Tom Zirbel. He came to this sport late and has now blossomed into a world class rider. It's been great watching him move up through the ranks. It's too bad he finished just outside the top ten, but he gets the CN "chapeau".
16:03 PST That's it for today's coverage - thanks for reading and be sure to tune in tomorrow for the probably rainy day to Levi Leipheimer's home town. It should be a good day for the sprinters and we'll see some close battles for the intermediate sprints and for the line in Santa Rosa.
1 Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 4.32.90 2 Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 4.34.11 3 David Zabriskie (Garmin - Slipstream) 4.35.55 4 Michael Rogers (Team Columbia - Highroad) 4.35.69 5 Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam) 4.36.04 6 George Hincapie (Team Columbia - Highroad) 4.36.25 7 Tom Boonen (Quick Step) 4.36.34 8 Mark Renshaw (Team Columbia - Highroad) 4.36.96 9 Svein Tuft (Garmin - Slipstream) 4.37.06 10 Lance Armstrong (Astana) 4.37.17