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Tour of California: Prologue Team Comments
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 2/19/2006
Tour of California: Prologue Team Comments

Tour of California (UCI 2.1): Prologue Team Comments
Navigators Insurance, CSC and Health Net Team and Rider Comments after the Prologue today. ESPN Broadcast schedule for TV coverage.

Navigators Insurance
Zajicek, Walters, O'loughlin

The brightest hour has come round. Today the Navigators Insurance Cycling team along with 15 other professional squads began the Tour of California, racing a short, steep prologue up palm-lined Embarcadero North Street in beautiful San Francisco.

Today's 1.9-mile prologue was won in 4:53 by Levi Leipheimer. The course, flat for the first mile and a quarter, made a series of left hand turns up into Pioneer Park and the landmark Coit Tower, where steep, curvy Kearny Street was lined with thousands of noisy American cycling fans.

"The crowd was great, everybody screaming 'Good Job, Good Job,' said Sergey Lagutin, the Uzbekistani National Champion making his first American start for the Navigators after several years of racing on another team in Italy and Belgium. "In Italy you rarely meet up with that kind of support."

On a day that smiling locals described as unusually cold, with bright, sunny skies and a mild 52 degree buzz in the air, the Navigators officially began their American season when Ben Brooks rolled out of the starthouse at 10:05 A.M. Brooks was the sixth rider of the day to start, sandwiched as he was between Mike Sayers and Lars Bak. He rode as a course scout for the remainder of the team, coming back after his five-and-a-half minute workday to report on gear choice and terrain.

"It's only 3k, but the climb is quite hard," said Brooks. "I had a 55 (tooth chain ring) on the outside, and there was no way I was getting up in that, so it was straight to the small ring and just try to pedal up it."

Teammates took his advice, taming the 600 meters of incline up to the finish with a 44-tooth inner chain ring and a middle cog in the back.
"Once I got on the hill I settled into a hard pace in the 44x17," said Mark Walters. "After I got off the steep steps I just tried to bring it up a gear every couple hundred meters to accelerate all the way to the finish line from the last corner."

Bike choice was another key element in the prologue.
Riders could gain time on a Time Trial bike in the first flat mile, and then struggle with their shifters and center of gravity on the climb, or they could sacrifice rolling speed for nimble climbing by going with their road bikes.

"I used my road bike," said Vassili Davidenko. "For the first 2k I really felt like I needed my time trial setup, but then when I started the hill, it was perfect on the road bike. It's hard to find the right combination on this course." Phil Zajicek posted the fastest time for the Navigators, 5:12 for 28th on the day. He is 19" back from Leipheimer and placed on general classification in front of Gilberto Simoni, Viatcheslav Ekimov and Michael Rogers.
"It was alright. First prologue of the year… a test of the legs. I was feeling good, the legs were good…I don't know what I turned, but it was okay," said Zajicek.

Overall the Navigators look solid on G.C. leading in to tomorrow's first stage David O'Loughlin is two seconds back from Zajicek, with Mark Walters back another three at 5:17.

"It's a little harder than I thought it would be," said Glen Chadwick, in 52nd on G.C. at 5:20. "The wind was blowing a little bit on the head here on the straightaway, and the last 500 meters wasn't too bad. The lead up to it was probably what was the hardest, the step-ups."

Around the curve of Lombard Street and heading up to Pioneer Park, Kearny Street in hilly San Francisco is a series of inclines and landings, 200 to 300 meters long, 12 to 15 percent each. The punching repetition of the climbs dashes any chance of rhythmically rolling in to the finish line and makes shifting gears at the bar ends of TT bikes difficult for standing riders. The need for a road bike and its brake-lever shifters was paramount here, rewarding those who lost time on Embarcadero with the comfort and ease of quick gear choice.

Valeriy Kobzarenko, making his first American start ever, is at 5:20, with Lagutin in at 5:26 for 79th place, sandwiched in between Jens Voigt and Fabian Wegmann.
"Everything's fine. This is a course for prologue specialists," said Lagutin, the World U23 Champion in 2003. Also in at 5:26 was Vassili Davidenko, who rode the course second for the Navigators and gave advice to his teammates as soon as he finished.
"Vassili told me that it was better on a time trial bike. He said the hill wasn't too hard for a TT, so that's what I chose," said Lagutin.
Ben Brooks, the first man out for the team, goes to bed tonight in 106th place, just 45" seconds off the pace.
By CG Baldwin

Health Net
Hayden Roulston 8th, Gord Fraser 17th
O'Neil in contention in spite of Crash

Hayden Roulston of the Health Net Pro Cycling Team Presented by Maxxis powered his way from the Embarcadero up the short, steep climb to Coit Tower in San Francisco in 5:04:10 to finish in 8th place in the opening Prologue of the Amgen Tour of California. The top 10 was studded with the elite of American cycling, with Santa Rosa resident Levi Leipheimer winning the 1.9 mile stage in 4:53:43.

“I felt good about my ride,” Roulston said. “I would’ve liked a bit better result, but it’s just good to get that first day of racing in.”

Gord Fraser also had a strong showing, finishing in 17th place, in a time of 5:09:46. (Watch for Gord at the finish tomorrow when the sprinters should rule the day in a group finish.)

Nathan O’Neill was an early leader of the prologue, with a time of 5:10:38, despite a mishap that put him on the tarmac just 200 meters from the finish. “I had just shifted back into the big chain ring for the final sprint,” O’Neill explained. “I stood up to go and the chain slipped. It pitched me a bit awkwardly and the next thing I knew I was falling into the barriers. I think conservatively, I lost at least 10 seconds because of it.” He ended up finishing 25th on the stage, just over 17 seconds off of Leipheimer’s time. Nevada
Ben Jacques-Maynes in 16th

Taking on arguably the most competitive field of cyclists ever assembled in the U.S., Ben Jacques-Maynes of the Nevada Pro Cycling Team rode to a solid 16th place in front of a huge crowd at today’s 1.9-mile prologue stage of the Amgen Tour of California.

Jacques-Maynes’ time of 5’08” was 15 seconds off the pace of stage winner Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), whose mark of 4’53” was a full five seconds faster than that of second-place Bobby Julich (Team CSC).
“I hit it hard and gave it everything,” Jacques-Maynes commented, “so I have to be happy with my result. I’m still in the mix and right up there with some great riders.”

Indeed, Jacques-Maynes finished less than 4 tenths of a second behind former USPRO Champion Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) and ahead of time trial specialists like two-time U.S. champion Chris Baldwin (Toyota-United), seven-time Australian champion Nathan O’Neill (Health Net p.b. Maxxis), and three-time world champion Michael Rogers (T-Mobile).

With his wife Goldi and 4-month-old son Chase on hand, Jacques-Maynes, 27, anchored the Nevada team, which also got a boost from Martin Gilbert’s second-place result in the California Travel and Tourism KOM competition.

With riders’ time splits from the last 600m of the prologue determining the KOM leader, the young French Canadian held back over the flat portions of the course and sprinted up the final few uphill blocks to Coit Tower.
“I’m not a climber,” said Gilbert, “so this may be as close as I get to the climber’s jersey for a while. I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t get the result that I wanted, but I feel good about my first race as a professional.”

Another Nevada rider making his pro debut, Mike Dietrich recorded the team’s second-fastest time of 5’29”. Dominique Perras was next in 5’31”, followed by Scott Zwizanski in 5’34”, Jackson Stewart in 5’38”, Gilbert in 5’44”, Pete Lopinto in 5’47”, and David Robinson in 5’52”.

Racing Manager Jonas Carney added, “The event itself ran very smoothly and it was really an ideal debut for the Amgen Tour of California. All our riders felt good and Ben showed that he’s very competitive at this level, so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do over the next couple days.”

CSC A Show of Team Power
Julich Sets Pace, Team with  a show of dominance in prologue.

In an early-season show of time-trialing strength, Julich was the first rider to break the five-minute barrier in the 1.9-mile individual time trial on Sunday. His mark of four minutes and 58 seconds didn't stand long, however, as Levi Leipheimer beat him by nearly four seconds to take the stage. Julich took second in the stage while Zabriskie came in fifth at five minutes two seconds.

"We had very good results," said Team CSC sport director Scott Sunderland. "We knew Bobby was in really good shape, but I don't think he thought he had enough to compete at the top end. Obviously, he does."

More than 200,000 fans lined the route, a flat run along the San Francisco Bay on the Embarcadero before climbing up San Francisco's famously steep streets to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. The terrain may have benefited Leipheimer, who is usually considered a better climber than a time trialist. "The climb was going to be where it was all won," Sunderland said. Several riders started out strong on the flats but didn't leave enough in the tanks for the brutal climb and "just exploded."

Z-man checking in pre racecourtesy Team CSC

Zabriskie, the winner of the 2005 Tour de France prologue, had a difficult time when the hills started tilting up. "I had a hard time keeping the leg speed up on the climb," he said. Zabriskie's chain slipped off the chain ring as he attempted to gear down, and he lost several seconds trying to get the chain back on and then into the right gear.

Fabian Cancellara
It was a solid performance for Team CSC beyond the top two riders. Fabian Cancellara, another time-trial specialist and the winner of the 2004 Tour de France prologue, set the early high mark of 5 minutes three seconds, which was still the fastest mark after more than 100 cyclists. He finished sixth on the day.
Stuart O'Grady, known more for his sprinting than his time-trialing, showed excellent condition with a 18th-place finish that was just 11 seconds slower than Julich's time.

CSC Team 'rides' day before the prologue courtesy CSC

While half of the teams in the Tour of California race on the European ProTour circuit, it was their marquee American riders who gave the U.S. fans a show. In addition to Leipheimer, Julich and Zabriskie, George Hincapie of Discovery and Floyd Landis Phonak rounded out the American top five.

Monday's 84-mile Stage 1 will travel from Sausalito northward through Point Reyes National Seashore and on to Santa Rosa. It will feature only moderate climbs, so a bunch finish featuring O'Grady and other top sprinters is a strong possibility.

Monday's course should favor the rouleurs of the peloton to drive for an early break, staying away to the finish will be the problem as always on a course like this, and the sprinters teams will be certain to be working to set up their lads for a fast finish in Santa Rosa.
Wind could be a factor as the tour drives north the day following a storm system that is moving off to dump some snow on Lake Tahoe in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains and Reno Nevada

ESPN 1 Hour TV Coverage
TV coverage on ESPN Schedule

Sunday February 19 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)
Stage 1
Monday February 20 ESPN2 11:00pm (PST)

Stage 2
Tuesday February 21 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)

Stage 3
Wednesday February 22 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)

Stage 4
Thursday February 23 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)

Stage 5
Friday February 24 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)

Stage 6
Saturday February 25 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)
Stage 7
Sunday February 26 ESPN2 10:00pm (PST)



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