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Tour of California - 2.HC

USA, February 18-25, 2007

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Prologue - February 18: San Francisco ITT, 3.1 km

Complete live report

06:43 PST   

Greetings and welcome back to the Cyclingnews live coverage service, brought to you from the newly-inflated airship, the Hindenburg V-2, re-filled with hot air in record time thanks to global warming.

At 1 pm, riders will kick off the 2007 Tour of California with a short, but intense prologue through the streets of San Francisco. Starting by the Ferry Building at Pier 1, the cyclists will ride 1.9-mile individual time trials along the Embarcardero, making the sharp left onto Bay Street and then up the tight, steep climb through Telegraph Hill to the finish at Coit Tower.

12:52 PST    It's a beautiful San Francisco afternoon - clear skies, light breeze blowing off the bay, and huge crowds of fans lining the Embarcadero to catch a glimpse of all the brightly clad pro's. A few guys from the Liquigas team were rolling around, while Gerolsteiner were all on their trainers getting serious about their warmup for this very short, brutal prologue.

12:59 PST    Near the start line, there are big crowds surrounding a expo where trials riders are doing some pretty spectacular stunts. They're 30 seconds away from the start, Credit Agricole's Jean Marc Marino will be the first rider to roll down the ramp.

13:05 PST    Kirsten Robbins spoke with Bob Stapleton of T-mobile this morning, and he said they don't have any prologue specialists here today - their main focus will be the Solvang TT with Michael Rogers. Aaron Olson also tipped Rogers to be their key rider for both the TT and the climbs - he's been showing some good form lately. Olson is happy to be here with his new team. Saul Raisin is here to raise money for Brain Injury research and will be riding the entire tour - but not with the pack - he'll be doing each stage a few hours ahead of the race, and fans can follow his progress at his website, www.saulraisin.com

13:10 PST    Ben Jacques-Maynes is on his way to Coit Tower. The tower was named after Lille Hitchcock Coit, who was rescued from a fire at age 8, and as a rich socialite, had the monument built in 1934 to honor the city's firefighters. It rises 210 ft. above the city, giving the riders a real challenge at the end of this prologue. It will favor trackies like Menzies or Jakob Piil.

13:20 PST    The blimp is running into some interference from a few low-hanging clouds, but we did hear that Allan Davis, who is riding for the Discovery Channel team, has come across in 5:17

13:31 PST    So Slipstream's Jason Donald has set the fastest early time, a handful of seconds ahead of Ben Jacques-Maynes. Ivan Basso is in with a 5:03!

13:33 PST    Basso's time isn't fast enough to crack the top five, bit he's only a few seconds down. Still it's Donald, Jacques-Maynes and Sutherland in the top three.

13:34 PST    Jens Voigt has come across the line in a 5:10 - a bit disappointing for the winner of the 2005 Paris-Nice prologue, but this isn't really his distance.

13:38 PST    Correction - Jens Voigt's time was 4:58, putting him into seventh place at the moment, not nearly as disappointing!.

13:40 PST    Justin England is picking his teammates Chris Wherry and especially Chris Baldwin for the prologue - they are going really well right now, and Wherry has put in a good effort today. Tim Johnson said that Nathan O'Neill would have been their main man for this event, but he broke his hip in an accident in Australia, so they'll go with Karl Menzies - he's also climbing well so could place high in the overall.

13:50 PST    Jason Donald was a truck driver full time until this winter, and he's beating some people with a much bigger pedigree. Taylor Tolleson, another Slipstream rider, has just come across with a 5:02 - Jonathan Vaughters' team is doing really well so far.

13:54 PST    Stuart O'Grady (CSC) is out on course.

13:54 PST    Jakob Piil (T-mobile) is off behind Jackson Stewart (BMC). Ivan Dominguez has come across the line well down on the overall.

13:56 PST    Donald still has the fastest time with a 4:50 - Bart Dockx and Brian Dziewa cannot get close.

14:02 PST    Slipstream's Taylor Tolleson is currently holding the best young riders' spot. Jakob Piil has come across in a 5:16 - so much for our trackie theory! The big names are getting serious about warming up now... We're about halfway through the riders at the moment, and Sebastien Hinault has come across with a 5:20.

14:06 PST    Bernard Kohl heads down the start ramp, and it's time for Dave Zabriskie to line up behind him.

14:07 PST    Dave Z gets a huge cheer from the crowd - he's a very popular rider, and is wearing the stars and stripes of the current US national TT champ. McCarty has given Slipstream another good time, coming across with a 5:11 - still a bit far back from his teammate, but the boys in argyle should have quite a few options after this prologue.

14:09 PST    Tom Danielson has come across with a 4:59 - a very good effort from the Discovery Channel rider. This should give him a lot of confidence.

14:18 PST    The blimp was taken out of storage and must have sprung a leak - we're having trouble keeping our altitude high enough to see the race.

14:19 PST    but we hear that Dave Zabriskie finished within fractions of a second of Voigt, with O'Grady very close as well.

14:31 PST    Behind Donald and Jacques-Maynes, the big names are starting to push into the top five. Danielson, Zabriskie and Voigt are all at 4:58 and change, and coming up soon, we'll see Hincapie and world TT champ Fabian Cancellara try to knock Donald off the top step.

14:32 PST    Also up on deck soon is local hero Chris Horner. Horner used to be part of the Webcor squad, which is one of the largest clubs in the bay area - over 400 members!

14:37 PST    Hincapie is on the start ramp, while Cancellara in his world championships stripes is doing some last minute adjustments - he'll start two minutes after big George.

14:39 PST    Yesterday, local riders were treated to the Liquigas and Slipstream riders joining them along some of the more popular routes - the La Honda climb is a favorite and winds through some very big redwood trees.

14:41 PST    Hincapie is coming up the climb now, putting in a good effort. He's chasing Torsten Hiekmann of Gerolsteiner.

14:42 PST    And Big George Hincapie is in with a 4:57 - that'll put him a split second ahead of the Voigt/Zabriskie/Danielson cluster!

14:45 PST    Fabian Cancellara has come in with a 4:55 - a great effort which should move him into the top 5, but what about this Donald kid? He's 27, won a few criteriums, and drove a truck until this winter, and is currently leading one of the biggest stage races in professional cycling!

14:46 PST    Horner comes up with a 5:03 - pretty solid riding by the freckled one.

14:51 PST    The crowds are 5-10 people deep in the last half kilometre - massive crowds are lining the climb to Coit tower. They can enjoy the racing and the beautiful view of the city around them at the same time. So the situation remains the same in the top three - still Donald, Jacques-Maynes and Sutherland hold the top three spots - not exactly what we would expect to see at this point with only 38 riders left to finish! Alexandre Moos (BMC) comes across the line well down in 5:23.

14:54 PST    Thomas Peterson is going down the ramp now... and Ben Day (Navigators) has come in with a fabulous time of 4:57! Good on ya Aussie!

14:58 PST    World Champion Paolo Bettini is hanging out, stretching and doing some last minute adjustments - he'll take off in about 12 minutes, but right now he is the center of attention. The crowds of fans have abandoned the Discovery Channel bus to crowd around the Quick Step area in order to get a glimpse of the diminutive champion.

15:00 PST    Brian Sheedy (Priority Health) is leading the KOM standings, and Taylor Tolleson (Team Slipstream) is the best young rider so far. Many riders have finished, more than 117 have come through and STILL - Jason Donald is in the hot seat - waiting to see how long he can stay on the top of the leader board.

15:05 PST    Donald might have gotten his advantage by using lightweight deep dish wheels instead of using the typical rear disc wheel/deep dish front combo. Bettini is pretty excited about the prologue, and isn't the best at time trialing - but he's hoping his teammates will pick up the slack. He's really enjoying the good California weather, and would like to get a stage win, but is mainly here for training. The crowd is simply going nuts around him - he's immensely popular here!

15:10 PST    And Paolo Bettini is on course to the huge adulation of the crowds. And Thor Hushovd, the green jersey winner from 2005 comes in with a 5:11 - a great effort for the big Norwegian.

15:14 PST    Tim Zirbel (Priority Health) comes in with a 5:10 - a really good time for him. Pellizotti comes in with a 5:02! Great time for the Liquigas team. Chris Baldwin (Toyota United Pro) is really surprised with Donald - he told Kirsten Robbins that he has been training with the man, and he knew Donald was strong, but never expected this. He's a bit worried that if Cancellara and Hincapie couldn't get near Donald's time, that he won't be able to either!

15:16 PST    Paolo Bettini was right when he said he isn't a prologue specialist - he comes in with 5:31... but right behind him is Ryder Hesjedal (Health Net) who gets a 4:58! He joins just about all the top names clustered 8 seconds behind the leader.

15:18 PST    We're getting down to crunch time, and Jason Donald must have massive butterflies in his stomach as the last ten riders are finishing - he's about to stage the biggest coup of his life, I'm sure, and the truckers' union will be proud!

15:20 PST    The last riders are starting two minutes apart now - Chris Baldwin will be next to go, followed by Fast Freddie Rodriguez, Bobby Julich (winner of last year's Paris-Nice prologue which was just 1km longer), then Robert Gesink from Rabobank, Mick Rogers and Levi Leipheimer.

15:22 PST    Fabian Cancellara (CSC) seems to have been trying out a new position - quite a bit different than what he used to win the world championships last fall. He's almost got the Floyd Landis "praying mantis" arm position - very upright and close together. It didn't do the trick today, but that's what these early season races are all about for the big boys - it's all part of a big experiment to gain fractions of seconds per kilometre.

15:25 PST    Ben Jacques-Maynes from San Jose is thrilling the local crowd by holding his second place at the moment. It might have helped these Californians to pre-ride the climb a few times... Bobby Julich is currently on course chasing Fast Freddie.

15:27 PST    Chris Baldwin is yet another top rider to fall short of Jason Donald's time - coming in with a 5:03. Apparently Paolo Bettini dropped his chain along the way, so that could account for his less than stellar time.

15:31 PST    With Fred Rod coming in with a 5:07, there are only four riders who can unseat Donald. Julich, Gesink, Rogers and Leipheimer... and now Bobby J comes in with just a 5:03! The last big race that Donald won was a stage of the Tour of the Gila last year, where he upstaged a pretty strong field. Now that he's devoted himself to a full time bike racing career, he's doing quite well (understatement of the year).

15:34 PST    All of the riders are out on course now, but will Levi Leipheimer still draw inspiration from the Specialized angel now that he's riding for Discovery Channel on a Trek? Gesink is the latest to come in behind the bunch - pulls a 5:15, and Rogers will be the next one to the top of the hill... It could be the wind has changed and the early riders got an advantage. Mick Rogers comes in with 4:58 - seems to be the popular time with about 7 riders clustered at that pace! And now only Leipheimer can take over the lead...

15:35 PST    Leipheimer is on course and FLYING! His intermediate time split is really good.. He's coming up to the line, stamping on the pedals giving it everything he's got. Coming up to the top and he's GOT IT! 4:49.050 - unofficial!

15:39 PST    Levi Leipheimer came to the Discovery Channel team to be the leader, and he's really has said "Respect my authority!" with this ride. But despite Levi also being a local boy, and taking the win, the story of the day is Jason Donald - second place against a stacked field, and Ben Jacques-Maynes - local hero to the South Bay.

Brief results

1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Discovery                   4.49
2 Jason Donald (USA) Team Slipstream                0.01
3 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA) Priority Health     0.05
4 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Health Net Maaxis           0.06
5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) CSC                       0.06
6 Adam Hansen (Aus) T-Mobile                        0.07
7 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Rabobank       0.08
8 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Navigators Insurance          0.08
9 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery                   0.08
10 Ben Day (Aus) Navigators Insurance               0.08

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