Fabian Cancellara Wins Tour of California Prologue for Second Consecutive Year
The 2009 Amgen Tour of California got underway in Sacramento as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, actor Patrick Dempsey (Can't Buy Me Love) and record crowds cheered on the exciting Prologue win, for the second consecutive year, of 2008 Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara (SUI) of Team Saxo Bank.
On a short, fast, flat individual time trial course in downtown Sacramento, Cancellara crossed the finish line in record time with the California State Capitol building in the background. Cancellara beat out top cyclists, including two Tour de France champions, 10 world champions and seven Olympic medalists to take the win. The enthusiastic crowd, comprised of shoulder-to-shoulder fans, cheered on the cyclists as they made their way through downtown Sacramento.
Completing the 2.41-mile course with a record time of 04:32, Cancellara will begin day two of the race wearing the Amgen Leader Jersey when Sunday's Stage 1 takes the riders from Davis to Santa Rosa, a new route for the race.
In second place, two seconds behind Cancellara, was defending champion Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Team Astana, followed closely by David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream, who came in third, three seconds off the pace.
“I think this was an absolutely fantastic day powered by the amazing cyclists, and also by the force of the fans,” said Andrew Messick, president, AEG Sports. “By and large, this was the most successful Prologue we have ever had and a fantastic way to start the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. This field of world-class cyclists, assembled for the fourth-annual race, has some incredible days of racing ahead of them, and fans are in for quite a show.”
Featuring an almost level profile, the 3.9 kilometer course had cycling fans lined up, almost 10-deep in places, to see the race action.
“The Amgen Tour of California is the first race of the year and I’m very happy,” said Cancellara. “This is a beautiful race and I like coming every year. This is the second time I’ve won the Prologue, so it makes me happy. There is lots of beautiful scenery and the crowds are great.”
Early race favorites include two-time defending champion Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, who finished second (4:34); George Hincapie (USA) of Team Columbia-Highroad (4:36), who finished sixth; Tom Boonen (BEL) of Team QuickStep, who finished seventh (4:36); and Christian Vande Velde (USA) of Team Garmin-Slipstream, who finished 22nd (4:41).
The newly unveiled, Amgen’s Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey was awarded to Lance Armstrong (USA) of Team Astana, with the Herbalife Sprint Jersey went to two-time overall defending champion Leipheimer. The Rabobank Best Young Rider Jersey was claimed by Mark Cavendish (GBR) of Team Columbia-Highroad. The California Travel & Tourism Commission King of the Mountain (KOM) Jersey will be awarded for the first time after Stage 1 tomorrow, along with the other jerseys.
Commenting on the team's Tour of California strategy, Cancellara told Roadcycling.com that "I have energy to give right now, so we’ll see. It’s important for me to do well for our sponsors and for the team. We’ll have to see what tomorrow brings and take it day by day. The elevation of the race gets harder as the race goes on, so we’re going to decide tomorrow what our strategy will be. We have a good team here and we are really strong. It’s possible we may go for the sprint jersey with J.J. (Haedo). Everybody wants to win and we are ready now, but there are still eight days to go."
Defending race champion Levi Leipheimer made the following comments "The first three years of the Amgen Tour of California were amazing, and every year it has been getting bigger and better with more crowds. I think you do have the ‘Lance factor’ this year, but there seems to be more people here in general, which is good for everyone. More media attention is a great thing."
"The time trial in Solvang will make a difference in this race, but after today, I feel pretty confident. Being so close to Fabian today is a good sign, but you never know what can happen. Something can happen tactically that could change the race," Leipheimer added.
When asked about his new teammate Lance Armstrong, Leipheimer told Roadcycling.com that "You could tell he (Lance Armstrong) was really excited today. He’s paying attention to the details; not just going through the motions."
A beard-less version of US Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriskie commented "This is a nice way to open a race. I like a Prologue for an opening stage. The course was pretty straightforward. We were lucky the rain held out. I got third, so that’s great. We would like to do well in the general classification and maybe put one of us on the podium; that is a pretty good goal for us."