Fabian Cancellara Powers to 2010 Tour de France Prologue Win
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland won the prologue of the Tour de France, with seven-time champion Lance Armstrong finishing an impressive fourth. The American edged out rival Alberto Contador of Spain - the defending champion and pre-race favorite.
Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland won the prologue of the Tour de France on Saturday, with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong finishing an impressive fourth to start what he's calling his last ride in cycling's main event.
Cancellara, who won the prologue of the Tour of Switzerland last month, clocked 10 minutes for the individual time trial along 8.9 kilometers (5.5 miles) of rain-dampened roads in Rotterdam.
"That was a great opening for me and the team," Cancellara said, referring to his Danish squad Saxo Bank. "It's an amazing day. I'm really happy."
Germany's Tony Martin (Team HTC-Columbia), who had led for most of the day, was second, 10 seconds back, and David Millar of Britain placed third - 20 seconds off the pace.
Lance Armstrong (Team RadioShack) trailed 22 seconds back in fourth. Perhaps most impressively, the American edged out rival Alberto Contador - the defending Tour champion and top pre-race favorite - by 5 seconds.
Riders set off one by one down the starter's ramp for the race against the clock. Contador went last - right before Cancellara and Armstrong.
They took a looping course over and back across the Meuse River that cuts through Europe's largest port town, scaling three bridges including the distinctive Erasmus suspension bridge.
Fairly persistent rain left the roads shiny-wet, and bikes sizzled and spit as they cut through the water. Large crowds braved the wet weather under colorful ponchos along the route.
Tony Martin had come saying a prologue victory was a "big goal" - and that his strategy had been to push hard from the start if rain were going to douse the roads.
Some potential Tour title contenders were already facing disappointment: Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), an Olympic gold medalist and strong time-trial rider who was fourth in last year's Tour, was 77th overall - 56 seconds behind Cancellara.
World Champion Cadel Evans (Team BMC Racing) said he felt "OK" in his first race day in five weeks. "All the corners where you wanted it to be dry, it was wet," Evans told Roadcycling.com and added "So I took it pretty conservatively. That might have cost me a couple seconds. Nine or 10 seconds behind the GC guys isn't where I really wanted to be but it's still the early days."
Team Garmin-Transitions' David Millar finished 3rd in today's Tour de France prologue. "I'm satisfied, I was hoping to go well and, contrary to my usual performances of late, I actually went well. The wet roads weren't nearly as hazardous as I thought they'd be. There were one or two corners where I was too cautious. I knew I was going really fast and I didn't want to be slapped off and make a fool of myself. I'm 33 after all. I followed Tyler and had a look at the course beforehand and I'm blown away by how fast he went. It fills me and, no doubt, our team with confidence for the coming days," Millar commented after the finish.
Team Milram captain German Linus Gerdemann told Roadcycling.com "I have started well in this Tour de France. I can be very satisfied with my performance. The weather conditions weren't optimal. I haven't ridden any races since the Giro d'Italia and instead concentrated on training. I can build on this time trial."
Armstrong came into the time trial predicting he wouldn't win it, saying that he's "lost it" in the discipline - one that he had dominated in his record run of Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.
But in his strong performance on Saturday, Armstrong actually appeared to slow down at one point to take a tight turn gingerly - a sign that above all he wanted to avoid a crash that could damage or derail his hopes for an eighth Tour victory.
The only other time trial this year is a 52-kilometer jaunt across southwestern France in Stage 19 - on the eve of the finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
But the layout also features a total of 23 mountain passes in the Alps and Pyrenees, which could play into the hands of Contador, who is considered the best climber.
Cancellara will don the race leader's yellow jersey for Sunday's 223.5-kilometer first stage across wind-swept lowlands from Rotterdam to Brussels.
"The stage on Sunday will be challenging. We know we can expect wind, narrow roads and maybe some rain. The part of the course that goes near to the sea is early in the stage, but we will want to be careful to keep our leaders out of harm's way," Cervelo TestTeam's German Andreas Klier said about tomorrow's stage 1 of the 2010 Tour de France and added "We can expect it to be a bunch sprint, but we must be prudent and avoid crashes or splits in the peloton."
The three-week 2010 Tour de France ends on July 25 in Paris.
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Click here for full prologue results.