If you enlarged a pancake to be 3.9km long, it would be much lumpier than the prologue of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California. That’s to say — the 2.4-mile course is nearly dead flat with only an oh-so-slight rise coming in the first half mile.
The Sacramento skies have delivered steady rain the last two days, as teams have arrived and headed out for training rides.
If the roads remain wet, the 180-degree turn on Capitol Mall (five blocks into the 23-block course) will be a point of caution for the riders. Otherwise the course is fairly straight forward — an all-out effort of about four and a half minutes.
Last year the Amgen Tour kicked off with a prologue of similar distance in Palo Alto. Fabian Cancellara won ahead of British track star Bradley Wiggins and American sprinter Tyler Farrar.
This year Cancellara and Farrar have returned, as well as defending race champion Levi Leipheimer (fourth in the 2008 prologue and winner of the 2006 and 2007 prologues), David Zabriskie (seventh in 2008) and Mark Cavendish (eighth in 2008).
Of course the overall contenders will be giving it full stick in the prologue to put themselves in good position for the eight stages ahead. But some of the sprinters will also give it an honest effort, as a good time here combined with a strong finish on stage 1 could put them in the yellow leader’s jersey.
In addition to following our live text coverage of the prologue as it unfolds and results and stories afterward, be sure to check out our new video show, VeloCenter, which presents analysis, highlights and tech features from each day’s stage.