Posted by Editoress on 02/18/07
Tour of California - Prologue
Coverage sponsored by: Maxxis, Shimano, Enervit
Jason Donald (Slipstream p/b Chipolte), a first year pro, racing in his first pro race, came within one rider of winning the Prologue at the Amgen Tour of California. Donald, the seventh rider off in the 144 rider field finished second to defending Prologue winner Levi Leipheimer (Discovery) by one second, with local rider Ben Jacques-Mayne (Priority Health) starting second and finishing third. Health Net team leader Ryder Hesjedal got off to a strong start with an 11th place result, 9 seconds off the pace.
The 3.1 kilometre Prologue runs along the waterfront for over one kilometre before turning left and heading uphill. The final kilometre is the hardest, with the riders struggling up a grade that exceeds 22% in places. Early riders received a bonus with a tailwind pushing them along the flat section. Jacques-Mayne's time of 3:54 was just off Leipheimer's winning time of last year, so it was apparent right away that the course was fast.
Donald then scorched that time with a 4:50.497, and spent the next two hours watching rider after rider failed to dislodge him - including world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (CSC) and world road champion Paolo Bettini (Quickstep-Innergetic).
"Yeah, this was a big surprise to me" agreed Donald. "With 50 metres to go I looked up and saw 4:48, 4:49. I knew Levi's time from last year, so I thought 'Wow'. The ride was a blur, and maybe that was a good thing."
Leipheimer said that last year, riding into his hometown of Santa Rosa the day after the prologue in the leader's jersey was one of the highlights of his career. it obviously motivated to overcome the headwind disadvantage he faced. "I didn't feel my legs - I was obviously super-motivated to win today. Everybody came back and told me about this headwind, that the wind had changed, and I think a few years ago that might have affected me, but I just told myself 'I have to win today' and I knew exactly the pace I had to go, and Johan (Bruyneel Ã‹â€ his team manager) did an awesome job... he knows exactly what to say behind me."
Leipheimer was getting time splits from his team. "I was like, four, maybe five seconds ahead of George (Hincapie) at the bottom of the climb and I knew I had so much left. I really saved a lot and then before halfway up the climb he told me I had ten seconds. I knew that was enough to win. It hurt, but I did it... This means I will get to ride into Santa Rosa wearing the yellow jersey."
Top Canadian Ryder Hesjedal found the wind made a difference. "I think I did okay, considering the change in the wind. The first guys had that tailwind on the flat, and it made me a little frustrated. Maybe I was a bit too conservative in the wind, but I went pretty strong in the second half, on the climb."
"I think where I am (11th, 9 seconds back) is a good position after the Prologue, not too far back. With this being the first race of the year, it was reassuring to get a good result; it shows that things are on track."
- Tomorrow's stage is just across the Golden Gate bridge from San Francisco, starting in Sausalito, heading up along the coast to Point Reyes Station after an initial tough climb out of Mill Valley, and then a second hard climb before finishing in Santa Rosa. last year the race finished in a sprint, and it is likely to again.
- 'Official' estimates put the crowd at a staggering 280,000. However, that would put the people lining the course some 80 deep on both sides for the entire length... This was not the case. A more realistic estimate is 50,000 - still very respectable
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