Clip in sports fans, between the weather and the Amgen Tour of California (TOC), it's going to be a great weekend for cycling in the Bay Area.
Whether you're tackling Mt.Tam on your Saturday morning club ride or comparing yourselves to the pros with a summit of Stage 3's infamous Sierra Hill climb, pack the sunscreen today and leave the rain shell behind.
On Sunday at 1:00 p.m., the TOC starts with the prologue, a 3.0 kilometer time trial from the Ferry building to Coit Tower.
Holy wingspan Batman! The Specialized Angel will be waiting atop Telegraph Hill again this year to lift the spirits of racers and spectators alike. Photo from Pez Cycling News.
The prologue is the only part of the eight-day stage race that takes place in the City, but Stage 1 starts Monday morning in Sausalito and concludes in Santa Rosa, the home of race favorite Levi Leipheimer. Stage 2 tours the Napa Valley en route to the state capitol and Stage 3 rolls through the central valley before concluding in San Jose Wednesday afternoon. From there, the Tour continues downstate for three more days before the penultimate stage on Sunday in Long Beach.
Make no doubt about it: the Tour of California is BIG-time bicycle racing -- even the Europeans agree! Eighteen teams, 144 riders from 28 countries, and 650 miles of California roadway -- you do the math.
All the big hitters are going to be here, including last year's prologue winner Leipheimer; 2006 TOC two-stage winner Georgie Hincappie; defending Tour de France King of the Mountain champ Michael Rasmussen; 2006 Tour de France stage winners Thor Hushovd, Jens Voight, Matteo Tosatto, and Michael Rogers; World Road Race Champion Paolo Bettini, World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara; and defending TOC team champions Team CSC. That's some serious lumber.
Just to add a little flavor, cycling's Barry Bonds, Floyd Landis, will be on hand signing autographs, making endorsements, and avoiding questions, but not racing. His doping scandal sidekick, 2006 Giro d'Italia winner and newest member of Team Discovery Channel Ivan Basso, won't be answering doping questions either, but he will be racing.
Sunday is your best chance to see the world's greatest cyclists and soak up the aroma of a world class sporting event. Check out Dave Zabriskie's new climbing technique, which he hopes will make him a legitimate GC contender this July in France, peep the Specialized angel, or hang out in the "rolling festival".
If you do come to watch on Sunday, don't forget your cowbells, but leave your paint at home.
Can't line the prologue ropes in person? No sweat. Check out the TV coverage on the Versus network or watch it live over the Internet. You can even ride the course from the aerodynamic comfort of your recliner.