Tour of California prologue photo gallery>>

The hysteria surrounding Lance Armstrong?s comeback reached fever pitch today as America?s messiah rode again.

Fabian Cancellara may have left Sacramento with the Tour of California?s first leader’s jersey of 2009, but today was all about Lance as the Livestrong marketing machine kicked in to action with impressive results.

Armstrong?s image is impossible to avoid at this event, and many in the huge crowd that cheered, screamed, whooped and hollered him around the 3.9km circuit were clutching some Lance paraphernalia, such as posters with his image and the message ?hope rides again.?

The Lance love was unavoidable, and it had nothing to do with Valentine?s day.

Hope might be riding in to battle with cancer, but it wasn?t enough to take on the might of Cancellara in full flow. The Swiss man is one of the best time trial riders of his generation, and today he was back to the sort of form last seen at the Beijing Olympics.

The Saxo Bank rider flew round the wind swept city centre circuit in four minutes, thirty two seconds, two seconds faster than defending champion and local favourite Levi Leipheimer.

?It?s the first race and you never know how good you really are,? Cancellara said afterwards. ?We had a training camp in the Santa Monica mountains for two weeks and we trained really well, [but] I was not expecting it to go like this. I have to see day to day, but I?ll do what I can to defend [the jersey].

“With eight days still to do it?s a lot, and for the first race of the year.”

Lying in second place, Leipheimer is in a strong position to take his third Tour of California. ?I feel great, I?m right on track,? the Californian said. ?I think I definitely have the form to compete to win, that?s not to say that I can win because obviously the competition is extremely good, and a lot can happen.?

Armstrong was tenth, another three seconds back and on the same time as Britain?s Mark Cavendish who was given eleventh spot as one of four riders finishing on 4:37 minutes.

Lance Armstrong poster Hope Rides Again Tour of California 2009Tour of California prologue: results

1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Saxo Bank 4-32 minutes


2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 2 secs

3. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 3 secs

4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad at same time

5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team at 4 secs

6. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia-Highroad

7. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step

8. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Columbia-Highroad all at same time

9. Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin-Slipstream at 5 secs

10. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at same time

British

11. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 5 secs

Tour of California: general classification

1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Saxo Bank 4-32 minutes


2. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana at 2 secs

3. David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 3 secs

4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Columbia-Highroad at same time

5. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo Test Team

6. George Hincapie (USA) Columbia-Highroad

7. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step

8. Mark Renshaw (Aus) Columbia-Highroad all at same time

9. Svein Tuft (Can) Garmin-Slipstream at 5 secs

10. Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana at same time

British

11. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia-Highroad at 5 secs

Tour of California 2009Defending Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer

Tour of California 2009Lance Armstrong on his way to tenth place

Tour of California 2009Britain’s Mark Cavendish pulls on the best young rider jersey

Tour of California 2009California governor Arnold Schwarznegger congratulates prologue winner Fabian Cancellara

Photos by Graham Watson


2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA: LINKS

STAGE REPORTS

Prologue: Cancellara Express derails the Armstrong show

NEWS & FEATURES

Tour of California blog

Armstrong and Astana train for Tour of California

Mark Cavendish: Rider Profile

Lance Armstrong: Rider Profile

PHOTOS

Prologue photo gallery

Cycling Weekly photo gallery

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PREVIEW

2009 Tour of California race preview

Start list: all the riders

Team list: all the squads

2009 TOUR OF CALIFORNIA STAGES

Saturday, February 14 Prologue details

Sunday, February 15 Stage one details

Monday, February 16 Stage two details

Tuesday, February 17 Stage three details

Wednesday, February 18 Stage four details

Thursday February 19 Stage five details

Friday, February 20 Stage six details

Saturday, February 21 Stage seven details

Sunday, February 22 Stage eight details

EXTERNAL LINKS

Tour of California official website