By Laura Weislo in San Francisco, CA
Jason Donald, a 27 year-old neo-pro with Jonathan Vaughters' Team Slipstream squad never imagined that he'd be sitting in a press conference, surrounded by photographers and reporters with them all hanging on his every word, snapping photos and laughing at his self-deprecating humor, at the end of his first big professional race. "It's hard to believe you're all interested in what I have to say", the Winter Park, Colorado resident said. "I've never had so many people wanting to take my picture - ever!"
Instead of heading back to the team bus, getting a snack and a massage after his race, this previously unknown rider spent the entire afternoon sitting in the 'hot seat' at the top of the leader board at the Tour of California prologue, watching top name after top name try and then fail to unseat him. It wasn't until the very last rider, Levi Leipheimer, came across the line that he was knocked down to second place, by less than two seconds.
Aided by favorable conditions, Donald was the seventh rider to roll down the start ramp, and as he approached the top and caught a glimpse of his time on the clock, he was shocked: Levi Leipheimer's time last year was 4:53 - and Donald said "I was coming into the last few metres and saw 4:48, 4:49 - I couldn't believe it would hold up!" About the rest of the race, Donald said, "I don't really remember much about the ride - it's all sort of a blur, and maybe it's better that way."
Spending two and a half hours waiting to find out if he'd win was "kinda hard", Donald said, but the fact that he had beat two world champions wasn't something he had even thought about. "For you to put me on that same level is a great honor - and hard to believe - it's so huge I just have to try not to think about it."
Read the complete Donald Tour of California feature.