I find this course close to perfect. Its short (good for this time of the year) but it does what its supposed to do: separate out the General Classification. The path varies all the time in it's 24 kilometers, thus presenting a little bit of everything for the competitors. Not only are there no fluke winners here but no one in the top 20 gets there by luck. Riders who do well here will do well on other TT courses the rest of the year. Add in a big crowd (thanks Lance) and the Podium Cafe party and we've got ourselves an instant high point to the Pro cycling pre-season.
So let's get down to brass tacks- the riders. Just look at these guys-
Levi Leipheimer- The two-time champ on this course defends his title. Both previous years he's had competitors breathing down his neck for the GC and each time he extended his lead. Of course the guy's no slouch when it comes to TT's anyway. Bronze medalist at last year's Olympics, 4th in the Worlds TT, winners of past TTs at the Tour and Vuelta, etc. He's a stud when it comes to the clock.
Dave Zabriskie- Defending US ITT champ, finished 5th at Solvang a year ago, 1:15 down to Levi. 3rd at last year's Worlds, 12th at the Olympics among many, many great races against the clock. Down 28 seconds to Levi for the GC. he's motivated.
Mick Rogers- three time World ITT champ, was 11th here two years ago. 8th in the Olympics, 12th at the Worlds, in 2nd place on GC here, just 24 seconds down.
Thomas Lovkvist- another dude 38 seconds back. Kid's career is littered with superior TT efforts.
Gustav Erik Larsson- 5th at Worlds. Silver medalist at the Olympics. No one should be surprised if he wins.
Lance Armstrong- 'nuff said. In 4th, 30 seconds down.
Jens! - His '07 effort, 2nd place, was the closest anyone's come to Levi so far. You know he's capable of bustin' out a huge effort. Currently in 12th place, 40 seconds down.
Svein Tuft- 2nd at Worlds, 7th at the Olympics; the Canadian champion. He's beaten everyone in this field last September; can he do it again?
Christian Vandevelde- 3rd last year here.
Chris Horner- just 34 seconds down, has looked very strong all week, including saving Astana's collective backsides on stage one. Finished 14th last year.
Jani Brajkovivc- finished in 5th place at Solvang last year. 38 seconds down. Definitely likes this course.
Vincenzo Nibali- also 38 seconds back. 1st time at Solvang, can pull out some great time trial efforts.
Ivan Basso- aka Nibali's teammate. Has been known to TT like a demon. 9th year two years ago as Levi's teammate.
Ben Jaques-Maynes- 9th last year at Solvang. Looking for the stage win that he missed in Santa Cruz.
Tom Zirbel- 8th last year
Floyd Landis- won the Cali TT the first year when it was in San Jose. Deadly serious TT history and with a so far disappointing race would dearly love to win this thing.
Others could surprise too: Stef Clement, Bobo Gesink (20th last year), and Ben Day to name three. Who do you like?