By Ben Delaney
For the first year, the Amgen Tour of California is opening with a dead-flat prologue, a 2.1-mile runway down University Avenue in Palo Alto into Stanford University. World and Olympic individual pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins and world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara are among the favorites.
On paper, the sub-five-minute format has Team High Road’s Wiggins written all over it —it’s virtually the same duration as an individual pursuit effort.
And you can’t rule out Wiggins’ teammate George Hincapie, who has ridden to the podium of the Tour de France with his prologue efforts.
Another man who knows his way around elite level prologues is Slipstream-Chipotle’s David Millar, who checked out the course yesterday. The course features two hard left turns early on, then a straight run-in to Stanford’s campus. Just before the finish, the course loops around the Stanford Oval to finish headed back in the direction of the start.
“It’s very nice, very fast. I like it,” Millar said Saturday night while riding the trainer. “The oval is not tight. You can do it full stick.”
Last year Slipstream-Chipotle’s young Jason Donald stunned the world by finishing the prologue just 1 second off the win, well ahead of then-world time trial champion Cancellara. That won’t happen this year. Cancellara is flying, reports his CSC teammate Bobby Julich, no slouch in the time trials himself.
And of course there is defending prologue and overall race champion Levi Leipheimer. Although last year’s steep finish perhaps suited the light Californian better than the 2008 version, Leipheimer’s goal is clear.
“I’ve done some good flat prologues in the past so I know it’s possible,” Leipheimer said. “You have to go in with the intention of winning it, and that’s exactly how I’m approaching it.”
Tune in to VeloNews.com’s live coverage this afternoon. If you’re out on the course (or anywhere else, for that matter), you can still follow the race live on your phone at http://mobile.velonews.com/live.