Prologue, Sanford University, 3.4km/2.1mi
- by Cathy Mehl / photo © Graham Watson

Feb 17, 2008

:: Official race web site: www.amgentourofcalifornia.com

It was a picture-perfect day in Palo Alto on Sunday as the third Amgen Tour of California got started on the beautiful campus of world renowned Stanford University. Under clear skies with tremendous crowds lining the barriers, it was a grand start to the cycling season in the United States. Racing against the clock on the short 3.4km flat course, 132 riders took to the start house and put forth a violent effort to claim the first leader's jersey.

Team Astana riders looked good on the stage with last year's race winner Levi Leipheimer putting it all on the line for a strong fourth place finish with a time of 3'57". Known more for his climbing prowess, Leipheimer had taken the prior two Prologues that ended in an uphill finish at San Francisco's Coit Tower. Asked to comment on the day's racing, Levi said "I want to recognize the fans of Palo Alto. The support my teammates and I have received in the past few days has been quite amazing and to feel the energy of the crowd today was even more special. A Prologue like this combined with some of the best riders in the world makes for a competitive day. I'm feeling good and look forward to riding into my hometown in Santa Rosa tomorrow as something special."

An early fast time was set by American rider David Zabriskie (Slipstream) at 3.59, but it wasn't long before other time trial specialists upped the ante and beat his time. Halfway through the stage 23-year old Tyler Farrar managed to grab the lead from teammate Zabriskie with a time of 3.56 and held tight for an eventual third place finish. Team High Road's Bradley Wiggins cranked up a fast time of 3.55, good enough for second place.

Taking the course fourth from last, CSC's Fabian Cancellara rocked the course with a new best time of 3.51. The current world time trial champion stormed the course to become the first non-American race leader in the race's three year history. With only three riders to go, a podium place was almost assured to Cancellara, and with Oliver Zaugg (Gerolsteiner) and George Hincapie (Team High Road) unable to best his time, only Leipheimer was a threat to his place on the top of the podium. While Levi's effort was certainly strong and a clear indicator that he is ready to fight for the overall championship in the coming stages, the day belonged to the world TT champion Cancellara. Citing his good form from a recent training camp in Agoura Hills, California, Cancellara said he always feels some personal obligation to win the time trials while wearing the rainbow jersey. Explaining that he tends to target the early season Classics as well as this race, Cancellara hopes his team can take advantage of his strong start and perhaps wear the jersey for a few days. Many other teams will take issue with that, especially Team Astana as they look to race smart in the days to come.

Today's stage also marked the return of Italian cycling star Mario Cipollini as he joined the roster of riders for Rock Racing. Also present in the field were current and former World Champions Paolo Bettini, Tom Boonen (Quick Step), as well as Oscar Freire (Rabobank), making for a world-class sprinter's field that should light up the roads of Levi's hometown Santa Rosa when the peloton of the Amgen Tour of California barrels into town on President's Day tomorrow.

Prologue Results
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 3.51.21 (51.43 km/h
2 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) High Road 0.04
3 Tyler Farrar (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 0.05
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0.06
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) High Road 0.07
6 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Team CSC 0.08
7 David Zabriskie (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
8 Mark Cavendish (GBr) High Road
9 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30
10 Steven Cozza (USA) Slipstream Chipotle Presented by H30 0.09

Team Astana Riders
16 Christopher Horner (USA) 0.12
17 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) 0.13
34 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz) 0.16
41 Aaron Kemps (Aus) 0.17
46 Sergey Ivanov (Rus) 0.18
68 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) 0.21
82 Jos Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) 0.23

Results provided by www.cyclingnews.com