The sun may be front and center on Astana's kit, but once again it shone on the jet engine that is Fabian Cancellara. Riding on flat, paper-clip shaped course around the California state capital building he proved he's going to be a force to be reckoned with by winning the 2009 Amgen Tour of California Prologue. The forecasted showers never materialized. Instead the stellar field had a relatively warm day to start this year's race.
Judging by the 10-deep, 500-strong wall of spectators laying siege to the Astana encampment, the Armstrong effect is going to have a major impact on the race, whatever Lance achieves on the bike. Nervous Amgen Officials, worried that the mass was threatening to spill over the barriers called for CHP backup as his start time drew nearer. Today he finished a solid 10th place, 4.3 seconds behind Cancellara's smoking 4:32:9 and 3.1 seconds behind team mate Levi Leipheimer who finished second. Lance and Levi were riding side-by-side earlier in the day and appeared to be having a really good time together at the awards presentation (which bodes well for team chemistry).
Most of downtown Sacramento was closed off for the race and security was visible but friendly. State Police, Local cops and a special plain clothes detail kept riders and the governor safe and secure. Funny story. Hours before the race, I staked out the six-story parking garage overlooking the finish line. (you'll eventually see one or two shots in my gallery from the position). The roof provided a nice view of the capital dome and a 360 degree panorama of Sacramento's downtown architecture but unfortunately the perimeter wall was too high and wide to afford a good shooting angle. While I was up there, two gentlemen in long coats appeared, chatting in the far corner of the parking lot. I thought nothing of it till later when I realized they were the plain clothes unit, probably alerted to "a man on the roof".
Mid way through the race I made my way back to a lower floor where the perimeter wall was easier to shoot over. I had three Sacramento bicycle cops standing right beside me. Ten minutes after I arrived a sergeant showed up to tell everyone that the parking lot structure was off limits, photo-accreditation or not. I'm not sure what mischief I could have got into with three cops standing right beside me. They seemed as bemused by the sergeant's decree as I was. I hustled back down to the race course.