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Farrar, Cavendish, other sprinters could take California jersey today

Astana’s Levi Leipheimer put in the best prologue ride of the overall favorites at the Amgen Tour of California. However, Fabian Cancellara's leader’s jersey may well go to a sprinter following today’s stage. Eight fast finishers all sit within 15 seconds of the general classification lead, and there are 19 seconds up for grabs in time bonuses. Slipstream-Chipotle’s Tyler Farrar put in a great prologue to finish third. He now sits just 5 seconds outside of the jersey.

Leipheimer in great position for overall

By Ben Delaney

Tom Boonen in the rainbow jersey at the 2006 Tour of Flanders

Tom Boonen in the rainbow jersey at the 2006 Tour of Flanders

Photo: Graham Watson

Astana’s Levi Leipheimer put in the best prologue ride of the overall favorites at the Amgen Tour of California. However, Fabian Cancellara’s leader’s jersey may well go to a sprinter following today’s stage. Eight fast finishers all sit within 15 seconds of the general classification lead, and there are 19 seconds up for grabs in time bonuses.

Slipstream-Chipotle’s Tyler Farrar put in a great prologue to finish third. He now sits just 5 seconds outside of the jersey.

There are three intermediate sprints, each worth 3, 2 and 1 second for first through third. At the finish, the top three finishers will earn 10, 6 and 4 seconds off their GC times.

With four chances to move up, Farrar could be wearing yellow by tonight.

Similarly, High Road’s Mark Cavendish, who turned in a blazing ride Sunday for an eighth-place finish, sits 8 seconds behind Cancellara. His teammate George Hincapie sits 10 seconds back, but High Road will likely try to set up Cavendish or Gerald Ciolek (15 seconds back), who could take the stage with their high-twitch speed.

Other riders in with a chance at the jersey include Health Net-Maxxis’ Karl Menzies (11 seconds), CSC’s Stuart O’Grady (13 seconds), Quick Step-Innergetic’s Tom Boonen (13 seconds) and Toyota-United’s Dominique Rollin (14 seconds).

The man who was the world’s best sprinter not too long ago, Mario Cipollini, put in a very respectable ride in the prologue to finish 44th, 17 seconds down on the world time trial champion. Not a shabby result for a 40-year-old who retired years ago. Although Cipollini’s time was the best of the day for Rock Racing, the Italian is not in California to hunt jerseys, and his teammate, three-time U.S. national champion Freddie Rodriguez, will be the one duking it out in the sprints.

In the team competition, High Road took the lead Sunday as all eight of its riders finished in the top 30. It also holds the sprinter’s jersey with Bradley Wiggins, who finished second to Cancellara, and the best young rider’s jersey with Edvald Boassen Hagen, who finished fifth.

In the hunt for the final overall title, Leipheimer makes no bones about his confidence level as the race heads into his hometown of Santa Rosa. He sits in fourth place, six seconds back.

Asked how sure he was of eventually capturing the jersey, Leipheimer had one word: “definitely.”

Tune in for live coverage beginning at 10:45 a.m. PST, and check back for full reports, photography and videos from the stage later this afternoon.

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