The Second Annual Amgen Tour of California opens today with nine Pro Tour teams and a total of 144 riders, among them World Champion Paulo Bettini, Giro winner, Ivan Basso, and the current World Time Trial Champion and winner of Paris-Robaix, Fabian Cancellera.
The opening prologue - really an anerobic presentation of teams and riders - features a short, violent effort of just 3.1 km or 1.9 miles that runs along San Francisco's Embarcadero, up Telgraph Hill with grades as steep as 22% to finish at Coit Tower. Last year, Levi Leipheimer of Gerolsteiner won the prologue over compatriots, Bobby Julich, George Hincapie and Floyd Landis in an eye-popping 4 minutes and 53 seconds. Now racing for Discovery Channel Pro Cycling, Leipheimer will again be motivated to win the Tour of California opener. Likely protaginists again include Hincapie, Julich, Brian Vanborg, Fabian Cancellara and Dave Zabriskie all of Team CSC.
The man to watch, however, is the man with something to prove, Discovery Channel's Tom Danielson. As reported in Cycling Commentary earlier this year, Danielson has something to prove if he wants to become a "figure in American Cycling." Last week, he and his wife showed up in Tucson at the Bartlet Lake Time Trial, a difficult 14 mile effort that ends with some steep climbs. Danielson set a course record of 36:10. Danielson is on fire. He is motivated, he's a climber and he is today's likely prologue winner.