Posted by Editoress on 02/19/06
Tour of California
Reports made possible by the support of MAXXIS tires
The Tour of California opened today with a 3.1 kilometre Prologue time trial, finishing atop Telegraph Hill in front of a crowd officially estimated at "in excess of 200,000" - in reality, most knowledgeable observers put it at between 20,000 and 30,000. However, despite the overhype, the event did get off to a strong start, with American riders taking all top five spots, led by Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner).
Leipheimer said that "I've been training all winter, dreaming of winning the Prologue and wearing the leader's jersey into my hometown (Santa Rosa) tomorrow. It really is a dream come true."
He was the only rider who managed to ride the climb in his big ring, however he did admit afterwards that "I switched to the small ring for the final 100 metres."
"I was surprised at how good I felt. I turned the corner (to the steep section starting on Lombard) in the big ring and still had some gas with a K to go."
Bobby Julich (Team CSC) was second, but nearly five seconds back, followed by George Hincapie (Discovery).
Top Canadian was Gord Fraser (Health Net) in 17th, followed by Michael Barry (Discovery) in 26th. Martin Gilbert (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) took a different approach, one which almost garnered him the Climbers Jersey.
"I decided to start out slower and save my energy for the final 700 metres, for the KoM. It went pretty good, but the final 100 metres I had nothing left and had to slow down a bit. It was so hard to do that intensity for such a steep hill."
- Governor Arnold Schwartzenager presented the jerseys, with a sizable minority booing his introduction.
- All the top riders are expecting the race to come down to the time trial in San Jose in Wednesday. Stage 2 on Tuesday may break things up with its final climb up Sierra Road. However, the climb is 30 kilometres from the finish, so the expectation is that a small group of top contenders will still be together. "The time trial is the most important" agreed Leipheimer "but stage 2 is very difficult. That climb is hard, but far enough from the finish that there will still be a group. I think it will just come down to who can time trial best out of that group."
- A few riders had difficulties: Nathan O'Neill nearly crashed at the finish (running into the barriers), Ivan Dominguez lost his chain after turning onto the steepest section and had to roll back down slightly to take pressure off the pedals while getting it back on, and Torsten Hiekmann (Gerolsteiner) had to stop and change bikes. The most serious (in terms of results) was probably David Zabriskie (Team CSC), who slipped his chain just before Lombard and lost a few seconds getting going again. He still finished fifth.
- Tomorrow is the first road stage, running from Sausalito, in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, north along the coast before turning inland to finish with a short circuit in Santa Rosa (3 laps). The stage is 131 kilometres, with one sprint and now categorized climbs. It begins at 11 am (Pacific) and is expected to finish at approximately 2:00 - 2:15 pm.
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