The prologue was so much fun to watch. We got a great spot on the final bend going to the finish line and go to see all of the pros warming up. Jackson Stewart's opening time of 5'38" made us wonder how long it would be before the magical five-minute-barrier would be broken. Discovery's Old Man Ekimov was the first to really start pushing the barrier by setting a time of 5'14" for the rest of his teammates to follow. Ekimov's time didn't last very long, but it was Tour-de-France-Prologue-Winner Fabian Cancellara who really set the next standard with an impressive 5'03". Discovery's Jason McCartney quickly followed up with a slightly slower 5'03" and it seemed that the five-minute barrier could be breached at any moment.
We had to wait quite a bit of time. It seemed that the major teams sent some of their fast men (Ekimov, Cancellara) early to set a good pace for the rest of the team, but the middle part of the race was filled with 5'10"s. The most exciting event of the middle part was when Olivier Kaisen came around the bend. The riders started at one minute intervals and every time a rider approached the crowd would begin to cheer. You could use the gap between cheers to estimate how fast a rider had gone through the course. As Kaisen started to pass, a second, louder cheer started coming from just around the bend. Discovery's young hope Tom Danielson came zooming around the corner and passed Kaisen at the finish line:
We settled back down again for awhile until we heard the news that Bobby Julich was on the course. The roar from around the bend as Julich approached was awesome and his time earned every bit of it: 4'58.19. I keep telling myself that my Bobby J and Cancellara photos are so blurry because they were so much faster.
The final part of the race was big rider after big rider also trying to break the five-minute barrier and Julich's time. Giro di Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli (5'04.83), Floyd Landis (4'59.55), Dave Zabriskie (5'02), Cadel Evans (5'05), George Hincapie (4'59.11). (update: in the prologue video, you can see Zabriskie having shifting problems at the start of the Coit Tower ascent, which certainly cost him valuable time).
Al and I started talking at this point after watching big name after big name fail to beat Julich's time. Simoni, Leipheimer, and Rogers were the only big riders left of note. I put my money on Levi as the only rider left that could beat Bobby J's, but I didn't really believe it.
Even with big name after big name, the crowd roar for Levi can be called huge. Leipheimer came flying up the final leg (video), so much faster than we had seen anyone else finish. His final time of 4'53.43 clobbered everyone else's efforts, and neither Simoni nor Rogers were even close.
* VeloNews Prologue Summary
* Prologue Results
* Graham Watson Prologue photos
* Levi Leipheimer Prologue journal
* Grassy Knoll Project Prologue Media
* Main contenders: Leipheimer, Landis, Savoldelli, Zabriskie, Julich, Hincapie, Horner, Voigt, Danielson, O'Grady, Evans, Simoni, and more. There's also a sequence of Tom Danielson passing the rider that started a minute in front of him.
* Big riders warming up: Photos of Leipheimer, Landis, Savoldelli, Hincapie, Ekimov, Horner, and others testing the final climb to Coit Tower
* More riders: Photos of Tony Cruz, Michael Barry, Nicolas Jalabert, Saul Raisin, Fabian Wegmann, Robbie Hunter, Christian Vande Velde, and more
* Even more riders: Photos of riders I couldn't identify as I don't have the starting order for the prologue (anyone happen to have a copy?).
Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):