Cancellara Takes Tour Prologue
Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) has drawn first blood in the Tour de France.
Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) has drawn first blood in the Tour de France. The Swiss prologue specialist tore through the flat, 6.1-km course in Liege, Belgium to win in 6:50. Five-time defending champion Lance Armstrong (U.S. Postal Service) finished second at 0:02, and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears) took third at 0:08.
Erik Dekker (Rabobank) set the early standard with a 7:19. Mark Scanlon (Ag2r) shaved a second off of Dekker's mark, only to see Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears) post a 7:12.
Two minutes after Karpets took the lead, Andrea Peron (CSC) posted a time that was three seconds faster than that of Karpets. Angel Vicioso (Liberty Seguros) then took the lead with a 7:05. Barely a quarter of an hour after Vicioso became the leader, Oscar Pereiro (Phonak) bettered Vicioso's time with a 7:01.
Pereiro's time held up for an hour and a quarter. Then, Cancellara shattered it with his 6:50. With 46 riders to follow, including excellent time trialists such as Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile), Armstrong, Brad McGee (La Francaise des Jeux.com), and Tyler Hamilton (Phonak), it was logical to expect Cancellaria's time to be bettered. The assaults of the heads of state fell short of the mark, however, and Cancellara had the biggest victory of his career.
If Cancellara was the day's big winner, Lance Armstrong had much to be satisfied with as well. The man from Austin put time into his rivals. Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) finished 0:13 behind Armstrong, while Ullrich and Hamilton ended the day 0:15 and 0:16 behind the defending champion, respectively. Hamilton's teammate Oscar Sevilla finished 0:24 behind Armstrong, and Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) was 0:01 further back. Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) were also in arrears.
Several teams gave notice that they will be forces to be reckoned with in the Stage 4 team time trial. Five CSC riders finished in the top 20--Jens Voigt (seventh), Bobby Julich (ninth), Carlos Sastre (14th), Kurt-Asle Arvesen (15th), and Peron (20th). Four Postmen did as well--Armstrong, George Hincapie (11th), Floyd Landis (17th), and Olympic time trial champion Vyatcheslav Ekimov (19th). Three Phonak men were among today's 20 fastest riders--Pereiro, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, and Tyler Hamilton. Look for these squads to shine during the next three weeks.
Matthew White (Cofidis), who had failed to reach the Tour start line in two previous attempts, was anticipating starting today's prologue when he crashed and broke his collarbone while warming up Saturday morning. Cofidis called first reserve Peter Farazijn, who was nearly 200 km away watching a car race in Ypres. He dashed across Belgium with a police escort and arrived 45 minutes before his start time. Jimmy Casper, Farazijn's teammate, took Matthew White's early start time, which gave Farazijn time to warm up. He finished 185th out of 188 starters.
In the overall, Cancellara leads Armstrong by 0:02 and Jose Ivan Gutierrez by 0:08. Stage 1 will probably not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 202.5-km run from Liege to Charleroi should end in a bunch sprint. Who will take it? Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo)? Robbie McEwen (Lotto)? Erik Zabel (T-Mobile)? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/