By John Schumacher McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) SACRAMENTO, Calif. Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara won the Amgen Tour of California prologue Saturday, unofficially covering the 2.4-mile course through the streets of downtown and midtown Sacramento in 4 minutes, 32.90 seconds.
The Team Saxo Bank rider will wear the yellow jersey for Sunday’s first stage, 107.6-mile test from Davis to Santa Rosa.
Defending Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer finished second with a 4:34.11 effort, followed by American David Zabriskie in 4:35.51.
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong finished in 4:37.17.
“I’m for sure happy,” said Cancellara, who won the Tour of California prologue last year. “It’s the first race (of the year). You never know how good you really area.”
Leipheimer sounded assured about his chances to win the Tour for the third time after finishing the prologue so close to the lead.
“After today, I feel very confident,” said Leipheimer from Santa Rosa. “To be so close to Fabian, I think, is a good sign.”
Today’s stage could include bad weather, and periods of rain are forecast.
“We’ve all been professionals for a long time,” Leipheimer said. “We certainly had very bad (weather) days on the bike. We know what it’s like.
“In your head you have to be ready for the worst.”
Riders streaked over the Capitol Mall course as large crowds cheered and more than a few clanged cowbells, happy to have the event under way without rainfall.
The first rider of the first day of the nine-day race headed down the start ramp at 1:30 p.m. The weather was iffy all morning, some blue skies, then plenty of clouds.
But right at the start of the race the skies were as blue as they were all day, which means safe cycling, the riders not having to deal with wet pavement at the corners.
Many cycling fans smiled when asked about the weather as they lined the streets of Sacramento in jackets.
Most came prepared for showers and said they didn’t mind braving the chill as long as the dark clouds held a little longer.
Dave Talpas said he planned to stick it out until he got a glimpse of Lance Armstrong.
“The weather put a damper on things, but it hasn’t detoured people.”
As Armstrong raced down Sacramento’s L Street, Stephen Fullenwider of Citrus Heights, Calif., held up his camera phone with glee.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” he said. And shortly after as a light sprinkle began, the race came to a close.