Americans Shine at Tour of California Opener
The much bally-hooed Amgen Tour of California rolled into reality today along San Francisco’s sunny waterfront. America’s Grand Tour Big Boys made up the Top 5 spots, and the mood was definitely optimistic for cycling’s future here…
By Tom McManners of Discover Adventures
Shortly after I woke up this morning I received a phone call from a prominent person inside the Tour of California organization whose grin I felt radiating through the phone line. Giddy he was, that the inaugural Amgen Tour of California is going to shock the world and raise the bar for cycling in the United States. Without coming right out and saying it, the reference was that this new event is going to hit on all cyclinders and immediately rival the other major stage race in the US. So I left my hotel with a grin that was ear to ear in anticipation.
San Francisco’s Clock Tower on Embarcadero with the larger than life Amgen Tour of California Leaders Jersey signaled the start area to more than 200,000 fans.
The Amgen Tour of California has come at the perfect time. America needs to keep the cycling spirit alive post-Lance. Just like Bobby Julich and George Hincapie raced together twenty years ago at the Coors Classic, and later at the Tour du Pont in the 90’s, those races forged the way for their cycling generation. To that end, like Bobby stated, “I’m at the end of my career” and this race is going to be that spark we need for the next generation of cyclists.
George Hincapie moving through the cycling alley to the prologue start house, minutes later he’d be third overall.
So be it, because 200,000 cycling fans came out to watch a race less than 2 miles long. When I arrived, Bobby was leading the race. I was standing next to the cyclists alley to the stage when George Hincapie rolled through. “I had goose bumbs at the start. The crowd was incredible. It’s great to be a part of this.” gleemed a normally reserved George after the race.
But that’s not what this race is all about. This race is like Verizon wireless, it’s raising the bar. Levi Leipheimer, the eventual winner by a convincing 5 second margin over Julich, shared his insight that this race will,”definitely be the fastest growing race in the world that we’ll see (over the next years) and inspire the next generation of cyclists. It (The Amgen Tour of California) will have a huge impact on cycling.” Asked moments later about how this race compares with other races around the globe at this point in the season and he glares, “Head and shoulders above other events in the calendar right now. This is the place to be.”
Amidst the huge throngs of fans, Levi Leipheimer raises his arms with Govenor Arnold.
What I loved the most about it was I felt as though I was witnessing a changing of the guard. When I strolled through the festival grounds I saw a new generation of cycling evolving right before me. The Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team, recently proclaimed amongst great fanfare in New York City a few weeks ago, had a booth that was unique, large, and looked as though the team had existed for years, not weeks. To walk in the booth, you move past a giant lifesize picture of the entire team, straight into an area where the owner of the team, Sean Tucker, is there shaking hands with everyone coming in and explaining why he wants them to be a fan of his team. It was a grass roots effort to embolden a new team concept, one cycling fan at a time. It was brilliant, and one way in which cycling will remain steadfast in the United States with marketing genious that needs to rival Nascar.
Walking into the Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team booth with the team prominently displayed.
So there you have it. Levi strikes first and will ride into his hometown of Santa Rosa tomorrow with the leaders jersey on. The top five (Leipheimer, Julich, Hincapie, Landis, Zabriskie) are Americans, and American contenders for the Tour de France come July. CSC and Discover Channel brought there A-team to this inaugural event. Tens of thousands of fans turned out on the streets of San Francisco to watch the birth of perhaps what could become in short order not only America’s premier cycling event, but become a world contender as well.
Sitting second after the prologue, Bobby J is ready to inspire the next generation of racers through the Tour of California.
Thinking about my phone call from this morning, I can only smile as I have become a believer that the Amgen Tour of California is big, really big. And Bobby Julich, pleased with his performance today and sitting next to Hincapie after the race, states “and now its up to us to inspire the next generation, and I think the Tour of California will help us do that.” I do to.
Results: Amgen Tour of California Prologue
1. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 4.53.43
2. Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 0.04.76
3. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.05.67
4. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.06.12
5. David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.09.37
6. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team CSC 0.09.76
7. Jason McCartney (USA) Discovery Channel 0.10.26
8. Hayden Roulston (NZl) Health Net p/b Maxxis 0.10.67
9. Vladimir Gusev (Rus) Discovery Channel 0.10.79
10. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.11.40
11. Thomas Danielson (USA) Discovery Channel 0.11.74
12. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.12.13
13. Robert Hunter (RSA) Phonak Hearing Systems 0.13.63
14. Heath Blackgrove (NZl) Toyota-United Pro 0.13.97
15. Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 0.14.44
16. Ben Jacques-Maynes (USA) Kodakgallery.Com-Sierra Nevada 0.14.76
17. Gordon Fraser (Can) Health Net p/b Maxxis 0.16.03
18. Stuart O’Grady (Aus) Team CSC 0.16.27
19. Renй Haselbacher (Aut) Gerolsteiner 0.16.64
20. Rйmi Pauriol (Fra) Credit Agricole 0.17.13
PezCycling’s Tour of California reports are filed in partnership with Discover Adventures Cycling Tours: Check their website to enter to win a trip to the Tour de Goergia.