In the shadow of the state Capitol, filled with legislators desperately trying to pass a budget in a time of fiscal crisis, the most talented group of pro riders ever assembled on US soil arrived in downtown Sacramento to circumnavigate the 3.8 km course from the Capitol Mall around the Capitol Park in a test of all out speed and cornering for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California Prologue. The purpose of a prologue is to seed out the general classification standings by launching riders one-by-one in an individual test against the clock.
Each of the 136 riders stepped out of his tour bus to throngs of fans packed in like sardines directly in front of the Capitol building. New pros from local teams were happy to greet fans, while other seasoned pros were all business. Inaugural Tour of California winner Floyd Landis, who had his Tour de France title stripped away from him in a drug controversy, warmed up quietly with giant headphones glued to his head, not making eye contact with anyone. At the epicenter of attention, Lance Armstrong mounted his warm up bike surrounded by a dense circle of fans packed in 30 deep, some climbing trees, standing on team cars, and leaping wildly into the air in attempt to catch a glimpse of the seven-time Tour winner racing for the first time in the US since returning from retirement.
Even a few groups of politicians stepped out of the Capitol during a break to see what all the buzz was about, but scurried away like rats when the multitudes began shouting inquiries to their progress in solving the budgetary gridlock.
I took a few hundred photos from different parts of the course and in the start/finish village. I was stuck behind the barricades because my press pass was denied this year–apparently the organizers were saturated with press photographers descending in from all over the world to cover the biggest names in pro cycling. Here are a couple shots of some of my favorite racers out on the course.