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Tour of Cali Prologue Wrap: Le Patron

For starters, I am about to watch the VS coverage on the DVR, so I have only a basic idea what happened. Seems like the race scored another triumph: despite the concerns of some (OK, me) that abandoning the successful Coit Tower prologue would detract from the race, the Tour of California managed to strike an even sweeter note with Fabian Cancellara's victory today.

CN states that the victory marks the first time a foreign rider has worn the leader's jersey, and that's all very nice, but what makes this a special day is that America has seen a patron up close, in his prime, possibly for the first time ever.

First, let me say that I'm not a cycling historian, and I find the definition of a "patron" a little difficult to articulate. Is it a guy who wins at will, or who tells everyone what to do, or who can pull the jedi mind trick on other riders? Probably all three. Or, as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said in trying to describe what constituted top quality gay porn, "I know it when I see it."

Past threads have discussed whether or not Fabian Cancellara is the patron of the time trials. He is. It's not worth debating. But today was cool for a couple reasons:

  • Patron-ness definitely consists of the will to win in mundane circumstances, which for a Swiss rider whose first goal is still two months off, this is. And yet, the availability of excuses for not winning (it's February, it's a prologue, it's not a priority, etc.) cannot tempt the patron into relaxing and foregoing a chance to stamp his authority on the race. V/cool...
  • America has only seen one modern patron race and win on the home soil: Bernard Hinault. Well, not true, Lance did use the Tour de Georgia to round out his form and showed what he was capable of in 2004. But in 1986 Hinault came to the US smarting from his Tour loss and won the Coors Classic in his first and last (I think?) US appearance. Unlike Lance, Hinault is one of the great undisputed patrons and wasn't going to give American audiences a chance to think otherwise.
  • Was it genius that led to switching from a climber's prologue to a power burst, in anticipation of what we saw today? Possibly. I don't think Cancellara would be a prohibitive favorite in February in a long time trial overseas, given that his peak(s) is/are scheduled for April, June, July, and August (for starters). But a two-mile power romp? If you build it, he will come and win.

Anyway, hope you all who were down there watching the rainbow jersey streak by appreciated what you were seeing.