Oakley Kicks Off Tour of CA With a Win


George Hincapie described the scene at the Amgen Tour of California prologue in Sacramento Saturday, saying only Tour de France crowds could compare. And those crowds were treated to a Tour de France-caliber show, with Oakley’s Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) blazing the downtown 3.9km course with a winning time of 4:32.

“I’m for sure happy,” said Cancellara, who also won the prologue last year. “This is a beautiful race, I love to come every year. With this crowd, it gave me the final motivation to win.”

Nearly all of the big names came at the end of the day, and all drew huge cheers from the crowd of thousands packed around the blustery course. But the Lance Factor trumped all. In his first race back on U.S. soil, Armstrong generated thundering noise all around the course. He finished 4.26sec behind Cancellara, the time-trial gold medallist at the Beijing Olympics last August.

Unfortunately Cancellara came down with a fever and gave up during Sunday’s first stage. The same day Francisco Mancebo of Spain crossed the finishing line more than a minute ahead of a group of riders, including Lance Armstrong.

Yesterday, The seven-time Tour de France winner suffered the fall after a motorbike carrying a photographer crashed directly in front of him. But Armstrong managed to make up the lost ground to move up from fifth, while Thomas Peterson won the stage. Defending champion Levi Leipheimer moved into the overall lead.

Oakley’s Michael Rogers moved into second overall, 24 seconds behind Leipheimer, with a third-place stage finish.

Armstrong crashed into the photographer about 120km into the stage but was able to make up the lost ground on a replacement bike. It was more bad luck for the American, coming a day after he had his team-trial bike stolen.

“A motorcycle for the photographer from the race crashed right in front of me,” said Armstrong.
“It was unfortunate, but it could have been worse. I don’t feel too bad, my hip is a little banged up but overall it was a great day. Levi proved he is the best guy in the race hands down.”

The nine-day race continues on Tuesday with a 167.7km stage from San Jose to Modesto.

Armstrong’s appearance in the Tour Down Under in Australia in January marked his first race since his final 2005 Tour de France triumph.

The Tour of California continues his build-up to a European campaign which is set to include the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.


Tess Weaver


February 17, 2009