[UPDATE] Chris here, was just putting up a post, so I'll merge that one here.
OK, we're not kicking off til 11am I believe, but what the hey. Today's stage from Merced to Clovis sounds an awful lot like a section of the Central Valley freeway system, i.e. devoid of any incline, and maybe even with a tailwind. But no, the course itself consists of pretending the peloton is off to visit Yosemite instead, before turning south just short of the park boundary. There is a fair amount of climbing on tap, from nearly sea level to just shy of 4,000 feet, but it's not all at once and it's all downhill from about mile 75 (of 115). Best bet: a sprint finish, though who's on hand to contest it depends on how the legs are feeling.
Which should be: good. After all, the sun is expected to make its 2009 ATOC debut today, though that won't solve all the riders' concerns. There is sure to be enough moisture left in the system for that 4,000'-high air to pack a serious chill. Look for the golden fleece to show up sometime in the last hour, once the black vests are put away for the day. But it's a step in the right direction, and the forecast for Visalia tomorrow is 65 and sunny. No whining!
Oh, and the passing storms have apparently left high seas in their wake. Translation: the silence from Gavia today will be deafening...