Sports

Saturday's Tour of California prologue showcases some of the sport's best sprinters

SACRAMENTO --For all the talk of the Amgen Tour of California's strong field, what might really stand out in Saturday's prologue in Sacramento is all that speed.

The 2.4-mile race against the clock on downtown and midtown streets should play right into the hands of some of the world's best sprinters and time trialists.

And there are plenty of them ready to ride in Sacramento.

Among the speedsters:

Mark Cavendish, widely considered the world's top sprinter.

Tom Boonen, the 2005 world champion who won the sprint points jersey at the 2007 Tour de France.

Thor Hushovd, an outstanding time trialist who won the second stage of the 2008 Tour de France.

Fabian Cancellara, an Olympic gold medalist who won the Tour of California prologue last year.

David Zabriskie, a four-time U.S. time trial champion.

Oscar Freire, a three-time world champion and the sprint points jersey winner in the 2008 Tour de France.

Gustav Larsson, an Olympic time trial silver medalist.

Juan Jose Haedo, whose sprint speed has helped him win five stages in the Tour of California.

Levi Leipheimer, the Tour of California's two-time defending champion and a bronze medalist in the Olympic time trial.

"The sprinters here are going to be fantastic," said Sacramento's Michael Sayers, who recently retired from pro cycling.

"Cavendish is the hottest guy in the world vs. Boonen, who is one of the most experienced guys in the world. It's just kind of an in-between distance. It's a time trial, but it's relatively short, so the sprinters will do very well." Sayers said he also expects the race's really big names -- seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and 2006 Amgen winner Floyd Landis -- to fare well Saturday.

"Certainly Lance and Floyd are going to have really good days," Sayers said.

Armstrong's program scrap- ped -- Armstrong's attempt to set up an independent drug-testing program ended Wednesday because of high costs and nearly impossible logistics. Armstrong, who wanted his tests from the program posted online, had been working with anti-doping expert Don Catlin on the project. But Catlin said it wasn't workable this year.

"It was going to be difficult," Catlin said. "There were so many issues in trying to get this going -- legal issues, financial issues, and we sort of tried every which way. Finally, it made more sense to put it aside for the moment and maybe take it up at another time." Armstrong will still be tested by UCI, cycling's international body, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Get out the calculator -- Mo McElroy, executive director of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, isn't sure how many spectators will watch the end of Sunday's first stage from Davis to Santa Rosa.

She just figures it will be three times as many people as the past three years. And she doesn't feel she has an accurate count of how many that was.

"It's really hard (to estimate)," she said, suggesting the number was between 10,000 and 30,000.

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