Cancellara wins prologue

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara swooshed past the fan-flocked finish line in a blur of spandex and determination, proving himself the leader in the Amgen Tour of California’s prologue — a 2.1-mile time trial from downtown Palo Alto to Stanford.

The 26-year-old Cancellara, a member of Danishteam CSC, is the reigning world time-trial champion. His 3:51:211 time beat team High Road’s Bradley Wiggins’ time of 3:55:463 by more than four seconds.

“It was clear to me today: I want to win, I have to win,” said Cancellara, who credited his victory to being in better shape than ever before, in part because of an intense two-week training camp in Agoura Hills before the race.

American Tyler Farrar of team Slipstream Chipotle placed third at 3:56:463.

American Levi Leipheimer, last year’s winner in both the prologue and overall, came in fourth just over a second later, clocking in at 3:57:525.

The results suggest a successful strategy this year by team organizers to vary the course in order to shake up the order at the finish line. Leipheimer is suited more for climbs than the flat prologue course, but may still dominate in the race, which is fortified with more hills than ever before.

Even the confident Cancellara hedged his bets when predicting the next seven days of the race.

“Today is today. Tomorrow, we will see,” he said. “Tomorrow the race really begins and it’s a different course. … I know I’m good on the short time trials but on the [longer legs], I need to be ready for this.”

Leipheimer said the energy of the Palo Alto crowd motivated him.

“I’m feeling good and I’m looking forward to riding into my hometown of Santa Rosa tomorrow,” he said.

Race organizer Jim Birrell said Leipheimer “certainly wants to walk away from Santa Rosa with a winner’s jersey on.”

Fifth-place winner Evald Boasson Hagen, a 20-year-old Norwegian on U.S. team High Road, came in little more than a second after Leipheimer at 3:58:891.

While police have yet to tally crowd totals, race organizers and city officials said turnout was high. Thousands of fans crowded the balloon-festooned sidewalks of University Avenue and cheered wildly as they lined the Stanford loop.

Yoriko Kishimoto, Palo Alto’s former mayor and an amateur cyclist who helped bring the race to the city, said she hopes the race will further the goal of city leaders — to triple the number of people who walk or bike instead of drive.

“Cycling is really at the heart of the green economy,” she said.

Today, road racers take off from Sausalito at 11 a.m. for a 97-mile ride to Santa Rosa. It will be the third consecutive year the stage has taken place on Presidents Day.

tbarak@examiner.com

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