California prologue; Leipheimer does double take

Levi Leipheimer has done it again, taking the prologue of the Tour of California for the second year

Levi Leipheimer has done it again, taking the prologue of the Tour of California for the second year
PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team) stormed the 1.9 mile/3.1km Tour of California prologue course along the Embarcadero in a record time of 4:49.05, narrowly beating rookie cyclist and former collegiate runner Jason Donald (Team Slipstream Powered by Chipotle). After watching 144 riders sprint down the Embarcadero, taking a sharp left onto Bay Street, then up the tight, steep climb through Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower, a record crowd estimated at nearly 300,000 shared their enthusiasm for professional racing on a sunny Sunday along the Bay. Leipheimer, 33, repeated his 2006 prologue success, earning the leader's golden jersey as stage one starts in Sausalito and finishes in his adopted town of Santa Rosa. "I was obviously super-motivated to win today," he said. "Everybody came back and told me about this headwind, that the wind had changed, and a I think a few years ago that might have affected me, but I just told myself 'I have to win today,' and I knew exactly the pace I had to go. Johan [Bruyneel - his team manager] did an awesome job. He knows exactly what to say behind me. I was four, maybe five seconds ahead of [teammate] George [Hincapie] at the bottom of the climb, and I knew I had so much left. I really saved a lot and then before halfway up the climb, he told me I had 10 seconds. I knew that was enough to win. It hurt, but I did it." Early in the day, the seventh rider to start, neo-pro Donald surprised everybody by posting a time of 4:50.97. Neither the road cycling world champion, Italy's Paolo Bettini (Quick Step-Innergetic), who placed 122nd with a time of 5:31.57, nor the time trial world champion, Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC), who placed fifth with a time of 4:55.09, could better Donald's remarkable ride. San Jose's Ben Jacques-Maynes (Priority Health Cycling Team Presented by Bissell), the second rider to start, surprised himself by finishing third today, with a time of 4:54.22. "I have to say that coming into today I was really motivated," said Jacques-Maynes. "I really wanted to come out swinging. It was pretty hard. I rode this race last year and improved on that time, so I'm pleased about that. It's a big shock to the system to make such a violent effort so early in the season. I grew up in this area and have raced in this city a lot. Every single cheer helps. Also, I had a couple of friends that ran alongside the course on the steep hill. That helped a lot. Racing into San Jose (on Wednesday) is going to be a really good time because I know every inch of those roads." Other pre-race favourites included Discovery Channel Pro's Hincapie, who finished ninth (4:57.238) and new teammate Ivan Basso, who finished 23rd (5:03.351) in his return to racing, and Team CSC's Bobby Julich, who finished 22nd (5:03.221), and teammate Dave Zabriskie, who finished 14th (4:59.169). Was Zabriskie, one of the world's best and most consistent time trialists, surprised to hear that a kid named Jason Donald had come in with a time of 4:50? "Not really," said the 2006 world time trial silver medalist. "That's the way cycling is, people take this race very seriously. It's a good opportunity for him to show himself. "A year ago I was much more nervous and dropped my chain. This year I tried to keep it in the big ring as long as possible. The second left turn, where it got really steep, I thought, 'I've got to shift because it's going to be impossible for me to stay in the big ring on this climb!'" Results 1 Levi Leipheimer (USA, Discovery) 0:04:49.50 2 Jason Donald (USA, Team Slipstream) 0:00:01.00 3 Benjamin Jacques-Maynes (USA, Priority Health) 0:00:04.73 4 Rory Sutherland (Aus, Health Net Maaxis) 0:00:05.20 5 Fabian Cancellara (Swi, CSC) 0:00:06.48 6 Adam Hansen (Aus, T-Mobile) 0:00:06.10 7 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col, Rabobank) 0:00:07.41 8 Hilton Clarke (Aus, Navigators Insurance) 0:00:07.46 9 George Hincapie (USA, Discovery) 0:00:07.74 10 Ben Day (Aus, Navigators Insurance) 0:00:07.80 For more photos and statistics from the prologue, visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/docroot/tourtracker2/index.html Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum. What else is new? Check out the Procycling blog.

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