97th Tour de France
Prologue - Rotterdam - 8.9 km (5.5 mi)
03 July 2010
Three of the past four years and four of the past seven, Swiss time-trial specialist Fabian Cancellara has walked away from the opening stage of the Tour de France with the maillot jaune on his back. Just think about that for a moment. The previous undisputed king of the prologue, Britain's Chris Boardman, had a five-year stretch from 1994 to 1998 when he won three of the prologues contested. Cancellara, who is by far the better all-around rider of the two, has notched yet another astounding achievement to his formidable career accomplishments.
Think about it for a moment. The two-time Paris-Roubaix winner, three-time world time-trial champion, an Olympic gold medalist in the time trial (and bronze in the road race)... and now, with seventeen days already spent in the yellow jersey during his career, the Saxo Bank rider is on pace to become just the twentieth person ever to wear the leader's garb for twenty or more days for a career. He's on pace to wear the garment on his favorite cobblestones of the Arenberg Forest on Stage 3, which would be that twentieth-day milestone. If he makes it there still bedecked in yellow, he will have planted himself between post-war rivals Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali in the all-time standings. And if he can last all the way through the Alps until the Stage 10 finish in Gap, he could even surpass Rene Vietto as the man with the most days in yellow without winning a race.
Because let's face it... as awesome an accomplishment as Cancellara's days in yellow might be, the most crucial part in the end is wearing it on the final day into Paris. And we saw some pre-race favorites put themselves into various degrees of comfort or discomfort depending on where they landed after just nine kilometers of racing on this opening day in Rotterdam. Three specialists -- Cancellara, Tony Martin (Columbia) and David Millar (Garmin) -- were at the head of the pack, but just 22 seconds off the winning pace there was Lance Armstrong. Yes, at 39 years old Armstrong was right in the thick of things, positioning himself better than any GC contender in the race with his ride.
Bearing down on him, though, Alberto Contador put on his own strong ride to cut that gap to just five seconds. In the long scheme of things, it is a few meters' difference on one of the Pyrenean climbs... so it ultimately works out to be a wash. We always knew Lance was more jacked up to perform well in these short, punchy time trials. Contador is a man built for the mountains in a way that Armstrong, even in his altitidinal prime, never was naturally gifted. Behind them, the rest of the challengers strung out in a long chain from dangerous to irrelevant.
Former podium man and Armstrong teammate Levi Leipheimer was right there, tied for seventh and just one second off Contador's pace. It was a Radio Shack sandwich around former teammate Contador, who was the odd man left out when Johan Bruyneel and Armstrong gutted Astana to go start their own team after last season. Improbably, sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin) was tied with fellow Yankee Leipheimer in seventh after a tremendous prologue effort. We saw another American, Brent Bookwalter, put in a strong performance to finish tied for tenth after coming in second at the opening time trial at the Giro d'Italia in May. With four riders in the top ten, the United States had obviously been the biggest national beneficiary of the Rotterdam route.
Andy Schleck had to be the biggest loser amongst the favorites, finishing 47 seconds off Armstrong's pace and 1:09 behind teammate Cancellara's winning time. It was just 47 seconds lost, certainly... but Saxo Bank will have to be vigilant to keep young Schleck from losing too much time early before he can allow his climbing legs to do his speaking. With the cobbles coming up, the team has a prime opportunity if it plays things tactically smart to gain back that time for Schleck and keep Cancellara in yellow. However, the other way to look at it is that he lost more than five seconds per kilometer of time trial. With over fifty kilometers of time trial later in the race -- when legs are more tired after six mountain stages and three weeks of racing -- that loss could easily bump up to six or seven seconds per kilometer, portending doom and a missed podium unless they rectify the situation immediately. Even at a five-second drain, that could easily be four minutes lost right before Paris... a slide that would spiral him right out of contention.
Remember... the Tour de France can't really be won on the opening day, but the form it displays shows that it could be lost. Just as possibly, though, Schleck could get stronger as the race goes on to blow his opponents out of the water come the Pyrenees. From what we've seen so far, though, Armstrong and Contador have established themselves out of the gate as 1A and 1B contenders for the jersey each has already claimed multiple times...
RESULTS - PROLOGUE
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 10:00
- Tony Martin (Columbia) +0:10
- David Millar (Garmin) +0:20
- Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack) +0:22
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:23
- Alberto Contador (Astana) +0:27
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin) +0:28
- Levi Leipheimer (Radio Shack)
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:32
- Linus Gerdemann (Milram) +0:35
Brent Bookwalter (BMC)
Adriano Malori (Lampre)
Janez Brajkovic (Radio Shack)
Michael Rogers (Columbia)
- Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) 15
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 12
- David Millar (Garmin) 10
- Lance Armstrong (Radio Shack) 8
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) 6
- Alberto Contador (Astana) 5
- Tyler Farrar (Garmin) 4
- Levi Leipheimer (Radio Shack) 3
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) 2
- Linus Gerdemann (Milram) 1
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
- NOT APPLICABLE AFTER PROLOGUE
BEST YOUNG RIDER
- Tony Martin (Columbia) 10:10
- Geraint Thomas (Sky) +0:13
- Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:22
- Adriano Malori (Lampre) +0:25
- Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) +0:28
- Kristjan Koren (Liquigas) +0:32
- Daniel Oss (Liquigas) +0:33
- Lars Boom (Rabobank) +0:34
- Ignatas Konovalovas (Cervelo)
- Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) +0:35
Be sure to come back every day to follow the Tour de France here in the Non-Traditional Sports World... and to keep up with all of Bigalke's writing, follow him on Twitter or Facebook!