Saturday, 30 June 2012

Spartacus takes prologue stage

The 99th Tour de France got off to a great start with a dominating win in the opening prologue by Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara. Rolling out of the start house second-to-last, the Swiss man affectionately known as Sparticus posted the best time by one-second at the mid-course check point and continued to ramp up his performance to claim the victory by seven-seconds. With the win comes the first Mailot Jaune, mirroring his win in 2004, also in Liège, Belgium, when he made his debut in the Tour de France with a prologue win and yellow jersey as a 23-year old.

Wiggins (Team Sky), looking to become the first Briton to win the Tour in three weeks' time, demonstrated his supreme form by pushing Cancellara close and taking an advantage of more than nine seconds over Evans, who finished 13th.  The 32-year-old Londoner, born in Ghent, Belgium, was denied the chance to become the fifth Briton to don the Mailot Jaune.  At the intermediate time check after 3.2km Wiggins, who was the 188th starter in a field of 198 riders, trailed by six seconds in 10th place.
Chavanel placed third, with Evans' team-mate TJ van Garderen fourth to take the best young rider's white jersey.  Wiggins' team mate, Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished in 7:29 to place 11th, while Commonwealth Games time-trial champion David Millar (Garmin-Sharp), who had been a doubt for his 11th Tour due to illness earlier this week, clocked 7:31 to place 16th.  Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) was a place behind in 17th. World time-trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) had to change bikes due to a mechanical problem and finished in 7:36 to place 45th.

Tomorrow's stage of 198.0km from Liège to Seraing is no leg breaker, but it still is bumpy enough to dampen the hopes of pure sprinters and may see Cavendish dropped before reaching Seraing. The course is less demanding than in 1995, when Bruyneel and Indurain blew the race apart on the road to Liège, but it comes very close to the Ardennes and, at 198 km, the stage distance is nothing to sneeze at.  This stage is designed to preserve the peloton's energy while setting the tone for the rest of the race. 

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