Fabian Cancellara has won the opening time trial of the Tour de France for a third time. He claimed the prologues of both the 2004 and 2007 editions and now he will wear yellow again. The Olympic TT champion beat Contador by 18 seconds.
At the finish, Contador has beaten Wiggins’ time; the Spaniard will wear the polka-dot jersey tomorrow but he failed to beat Cancellara’s time.
The fastest rider so far, caught his 90-second man Denis Menchov before the finish of the stage.
Cancellara has obliterated the previous best time, taking 19.47 seconds off Wiggin’s time. The Swiss appears destined to win the opening time trial for a third time.
All Alberto Contador has to do to earn the polka-dot jersey is finish the stage. He is the fastest at the intermediate check and has thus earned three points in the climbing classification.
The defending champion of the Tour, Carlos Sastre is ranked 23rd at the top of the climb. His time is 11’58" - 36" behind Contador.
Wiggins set the best time of the day. He average speed is 46.9km/h. He is now in the yellow jersey position with just five men yet to arrive at the finish.
At the intermediate check, Evans is fifth - seven seconds behind the time of Contador.
At the top, Contador posted a time of 11’22", this is five seconds faster than Tony Martin.
At the intermediate check, Cancellara has matched the effort of Wiggins. The pair are both one-second shy of Tony Martin’s time at the top.
At the top of the climb, Menchov has already lost 43". The Russian winner of the Giro d’Italia is not having a good day at all.
Wiggins is one second behind Tony Martin at the top of the climb. The Brit is two seconds better than Leipheimer at the 7.5km mark.
Like his team-mate, Lance Armstrong, the Spanish time trial champion Alberto Contador has got his chain in the big ring up front and right at the top of the cluster at the back. He is spinning a rapid cadence and spending most of the time out of the saddle.
Carlos Sastre has begun the time trial. He is the last man to race today. Wearing the number-one ’dossard’, he is in the aero tuck early on the climb.
Franco Pellizotti was a climbing sensation at the Giro d’Italia but today he’s reached the top of the cote de Beausoleil in 44th place. Only four riders now threaten Tony Martin’s chance of taking the polka-dot jersey.
Roberto Damiani is driving the Silence-Lotto team car. Beside him sits Hendrik Redant who will call the times for their leader, Cadel Evans. The Italian and Belgian are sharing a joke as they wait for the Australian two-time Tour runner-up to begin his race.
In the back of the car is the team’s sponsor, Marc Coucke.
Fabian Cancellara is wearing a skinsuit with touches of gold coloring to note his achievements in Beijing when he won the time trial at the Olympics last year. He has just let the start house. The man of many nicknames - amongst them ’Fabu’ and ’Spartacus’ - believes it’s possible to win the opening time trial at the Tour for a third time.
Denis Menchov has just left the start house. He is the fifth-last man to begin the time trial, now only Cancellara, Contador, Evans and Sastre remain...
Bradley Wiggins, the two-time Olympic individual pursuit champion, is the last of the Garmin team to start the time trial. He has attacked the early part of the course and is now on the climb.
Sylvain Chavanel (QSI) was 32" behind Tony Martin at the top of the climb, good enough for 18th best at the intermediate check. He is now tearing up the road on the descent, appearing intent on improving his position before the finish.
There was a threat of rain for the late part of the stage. So far, the roads are still dry but as the final 10 riders prepare for their time trial, the cloud cover in Monaco is getting heavier. Some people are even claiming to have felt a rain drop or two... although for the moment it’s not even close to being a shower.
Arguably the most skillful descender in modern cycling, Luis Leon Sanchez of the Caisse d’Epargne team, has just begun his time trial. He was the Spanish time trial champion in 2008 and runner-up in that event this year (when he was beaten by Contador). The course suits his characteristics and Sanchez must be considered as a rider capable of a good result today.
Tony Martin still has the best time of the day at the first check. If he can maintain that position he will be presented with the polka-dot jersey at the end of the stage. The points allocation for the category-four cote de Beausoleil is 3, 2 and 1 for the three fastest over the first 7.5km of the 15.5km course.
At the first check, Andy Schleck has set a time that’s 21" behind the best; he is currently ranked ninth.
Vicenzo Nibali has reached the first check with the fourth best time. He was 4" slower than Martin but it’s an ominous sign as he has beaten the time set by Andreas Kloden at the 7.5km mark.
After the arrival of Andreas Kloden, the provisional top five of stage one is:
1. Kloden (GER) AST 19’54"
2. Leipheimer (USA) AST at 8"
3. Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 10"
4. Martin (GER) THR at 11"
5. Armstrong (USA) AST at 18"
Alberto Contador is warming up with an Astana jersey on and red and yellow knicks. He recently won the Spanish TT championship, beating his former team-mate Luis Sanchez, and will therefore race in a different jersey for the time trial than he will for the road stages.
Andreas Kloden is the fastest rider so far today. He is 8 seconds faster than his team-mate Leipheimer after covering the 15.5km course at an average speed of 46.7km/h.
Dave Zabriskie will not repeat his efforts from the opening day of the 2005 Tour when he won the stage (two seconds ahead of Armstrong). The American TT champion is currently ranked sixth, 17" behind Leipheimer.
At the 7.5km mark, there are two Astana riders ahead of Lance Armstrong. Leipheimer has the second best time at the intermediate check (3" behind Tony Martin) while Andreas Kloden has just set the fourth best time (5" behind Martin and 7" faster than the seven-time Tour champion).
Leipheimer has maintained his lead despite a strong ride from Liquigas’ leader, Roman Kreuziger. The Czech rider is ranked second, just 2.1 seconds behind the American.
Kreuziger has caught his one-minute man, Jeremy Roy (FDJ). The Czech rider was the winner of the Tour de Romandie in May and appears poised to push into the top five in today’s stage.
George Hincapie has reached the intermediate check 39" slower than his Columbia team-mate Tony Martin. The American is currently ranked 21st at the 7.5km mark.
Roman Kreuziger, the leader of the Liquigas team, has muscled his way into third place at the top of the climb. At the intermediate check, he is 3" behind Martin’s time and nine seconds ahead of Armstrong.
In the pit area, Fabian Cancellara is preparing for a race many expect him to win. Even though there’s a climb on the course, this Swiss strongman is one of the big favorites for today’s stage. He is currently on the stationary bike with a fan in front of him as he warms up. He is the last Saxo Bank rider to start the stage and fourth-last man schedule to begin the 15.5km TT. His start time is 7.04pm.
â€śFifteen kilometersâ€¦ itâ€™s perfect for me. My confidence is at its peak for this time trial,â€ť the winner of the prologues of the Tour de France in 2004 and 2007, Fabian Cancellara, told Lâ€™Equipe yesterday. He was even prepared to share a joke about how fast heâ€™s going to go and the chill that heâ€™ll give his competitors. â€śMy rivals will have to wear a winter jacket because when I go past them, theyâ€™ll get a cold.â€ť
Mark Cavendish has finished the time trial in 22’46". He is 114th so far today, 2’14" behind Levi Leipheimer.
Dave Zabriskie, the winner of the opening time trial in 2005, has just left the start house. He is wearing the colors of the US national champion.
The rider who finished second in the prologue of the first post-Armstrong Tour (ie. 2006) has just started the time trial today. George Hincapie only just missed out on taking the first yellow jersey of the race three years ago but he would gain time bonuses in the second stage and inherit the overall lead. He is the 133rd rider to start today. This is his 14th Tour de France!
Frank Schleck, who wore the yellow jersey for a few days during the 2008 Tour, has just reached the first time check. He is ranked 21st, 41" behind Tony Martin.
Gesink has posted the 11th best time at the intermediate check. He is 33" behind the time of Tony Martin at the top of the climb.
Saxo Bank ended the 2008 Tour with the yellow jersey and began the 2009 edition with victory... and the lead in the general classification thanks to the efforts of their Swiss Spartacus, Fabian Cancellara. The winner of the Tour last year, Carlos Sastre finished one minute, six seconds behind his former team-mate.
The top five in the opening stage is:
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) SAX - 15.5km in 19’32.130
2. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST at 18"
3. Bradley Wiggins (GBR) GRM at 19"
4. Andreas Kloden (GER) AST at 22"
5. Cadel Evans (AUS) SIL at 23"
The Dutch sensation Robert Gesink who is making his Tour debut this year is on his way to the top of the cote de Beausoleil. He is a formidable climber and a lot is expected of him from his Rabobank team although he’s not the designated leader; that role goes to his Russian colleague, the 2009 Giro d’Italia champion Denis Menchov.
The champion of the 2006 Tour de France, Oscar Pereiro, is the 129th rider to start the time trial. He is the second former winner to commence the first stage this year.
The 112th rider to start the stage today is Nicolas Roche of the AG2R La Mondial team. He is the son of the 1987 Tour champion, Stephen. The Irish road race champion began his time trial one minute before Mark Cavendish.
The second Japanese rider to start the Tour de France since Imanaka-san in 1996, is Yukiya Arashiro of the BBox Bouygues Telecom team. There are two riders from Japan in the 2009 Tour de France. The other is Fumiyuki Beppu who was the 41st rider to start the time trial today.
Kenny van Hummel, who was the first rider to start the stage, is currently ranked last. He is 2’53" behind the time of Leipheimer. So far, 84 riders have finished the 15.5km time trial.
The rider who led the Tour de France for one day last year, Roman Feillu, has just begun his time trial. He was wearing the yellow jersey in the time trial in Cholet in 2008.
â€śItâ€™s going to be interesting,â€ť said the leader of the Garmin-Slipstream team Christian Vande after riding the course earlier this afternoon. He is the 155th rider to start the time trial in Monaco and he was feeling confident about putting in a good performance in this opening stage. â€śThere are moments on the descent where weâ€™ll be going really fast â€“ 70, maybe even 80 kilometers an hour. When youâ€™re going that fast, youâ€™ve always got to be careful, especially when thereâ€™s a tight turn like the one with about 5km to go.
â€śIâ€™m ready. Looking forward to it; today should be fun.â€ť
He is another leader who has opted not to be the last from his team to start the time trial; that option has gone to Garmin’s TT specialist Bradley Wiggins who will be the 5th last to start the race today.
The rider with the best time of the day so far remains the American from Astana, Levi Leipheimer. He has already won eight races this year, including the time trials (and overall titles) of both the Tour of California and the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon.
He was second in the 60.5km time trial (of stage 12) during the Giro d’Italia in May (finishing behind Rabobank’s Denis Menchov). But by the end of the Italian Grand Tour he was showing signs of fatigue, finishing 27th in the 15.3km TT that concluded the Giro.
LeTour.fr conducts a poll each day during the live coverage. Today’s question is:
Of the former Tour winners in the line-up for the 2009 race, who has the best chance of winner - Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pereiro, Alberto Contador or Carlos Sastre.
With over 6,000 votes already cast, the consensus is that the 2007 champion has the best chance of victory in stage one: Contador has received 44 per cent of the votes.
LeTour.fr spoke to the runner-up of the last two editions of the Tour de France earlier this afternoon once heâ€™d finished his reconnaissance of the time trial course. â€śItâ€™s really quite slippery out there,â€ť was his first comment about the route that starts and finishes at the Monaco harbor front. â€śIâ€™m happy with the set up of my bike but there are a few corners that Iâ€™ll have to pay attention to. Itâ€™s really hot and humid and the road surface is very smooth.
â€śThis is good for fast times but on the descent there are a couple of places where you have to brake hard, so I know Iâ€™ve got to be a little careful,â€ť he told LeTour.fr exclusively.
â€śIâ€™m feeling goodâ€¦ relaxed and calm. Itâ€™s the same every year at this point: if youâ€™re not ready now, then itâ€™s too late. Now Iâ€™m just keen for the race to start.â€ť
Millar lost a little time on the descent. He is now ranked fifth, 18" behind Leipheimer.
At the intermediate check, David Millar has the fourth fastest time (16" slower than Martin). He locked up his rear wheel on a right hand turn and lost a little time. He is now on the approach to the finish...
There are a total of 37 riders eligible for the youth classification in the 96th edition of the Tour de France. This includes the winner of the white jersey in 2008, Andy Schleck (SAX) and the quadruple stage winner from last year Mark Cavendish (THR). The youngest man in the race this year is Caisse dâ€™Epargneâ€™s Rigoberto Uran who turned 22 on 26 January.
Uran is the latest rider to start the time trial. He is the 69th starter.
â€śItâ€™s a difficult course. Itâ€™s very technical and it was hard to find a rhythm," said Armstrong recently. "My last Tour was years awayâ€¦ but what a beautiful race. The crowds are great. And I think the best way to sum it all up is that I had a good time."
Bert Grabsch, the winner of the long time trial of the recent Dauphine Libere - and the reigning time trial world champion - is now on his way to the summit of the climb. He was the 53rd rider to begin the race today.
The rider who crested the climb three seconds behind Tony Martin and now has the best time at the finish, Levi Leipheimer of the Astana team, has set an average speed on the 15.5km course of 46.4km/h.
He won the 19th stage of the 2007 edition - his only stage victory today - when he beat Cadel Evans by 51" on the penultimate day of the race in which he finished third overall.
At the finish, Leipheimer has set the fastest time of the day. He is 3" ahead of Martin and 10" ahead of his team-mate Armstrong. The last time Levi Leipheimer did a time trial at the Tour de France (stage 20 of the 2007 edition) he was the winner of the stage.
Gustav Larsson, the bronze medallist from the TT in Beijing, has just posted the third best time of the stage.
David Millar has opted to keep the chain in the small chainring early on the climb. He was sitting almost upright for a while but has now tucked into the aero position as he climbs the cote de Beausoleil.
Tony Martin of the Columbia-Highroad team has beaten the time of Armstrong by seven seconds. The current top five after Martin’s arrival is:
1. Martin (GER) THR - 20’05"
2. Armstrong (USA) AST - at 7"
3. Coppel (FRA) FDJ - at 18"
4. Monfort (BEL) THR - at 37"
5. Arvesen (NOR) SAX - at 51"
At the intermediate check, Leipheimer has the second best time of the day. He is 3" behind Martin and 9" ahead of Armstrong.
Mondory (ALM) who began one minute ahead of Tony Martin (THR) is still trying to match the pace of the German who has set the best time of the day so far. The pair are now within the final 5km of the opening stage.
Martin’s team-mate Mark Renshaw told LeTour.fr that the debutant would gain his time on the climb and perhaps lose a little to another favorite, Cancellara, on the descent.
At the intermediate check, Tony Martin (THR) is 11" ahead of the time set by Armstrong (AST).
Jerome Coppel has set the second fastest time of the day so far at the intermediate check. The Frenchman from FDJ is 11" behind Armstrong at the top of the climb...
Before the 8km mark, Tony Martin has caught the rider who started 60 seconds ahead of him (Lloyd Mondory). The German is considered one of the favorites for the stage today.
LeTour.fr spoke with Columbia-Highroadâ€™s lead-out specialist Mark Renshaw after he completed a reconnaissance of the time trial course earlier today. The Australian is a resident of Monaco so we asked for his take on the favorites for the stage.
â€śItâ€™s going to be interesting if it dumps down,â€ť he said, referring to the chance of a shower. â€śIâ€™ve seen it pour down here when itâ€™s humid like this. Itâ€™s typical summer conditions and it could rain at around six oâ€™clock, going on tradition.â€ť
When asked for his forecast of the winner, he favored a team-mate: â€śTony Martin should finish in the top three,â€ť said Renshaw of his German colleague. â€śHeâ€™s flying at the moment! Heâ€™ll gain time going up the hill but Fabian Cancellara will make up a lot of time on the descent. I reckon itâ€™ll be between Tony and Fabianâ€¦â€ť
At the finish, Armstrong has posted a time of 20’12". The average speed for his 15.5km time trial was 46.0km/h. The previous best time was Maxime Monfort who had an average of 44.9km/h.
Lance Armstrong has just gone through the famous tunnel of the Monaco GP. He is now less than 1km from the finish of the stage. He has the fastest time of the day so far at the intermediate check.
There is a climb on the course in Monaco, the cote de Beausoleil (which peaks at the 8.0km mark). This is ranked as a category-four climb (which is 7.2km long at and average gradient of 2.7 per cent) which means points will be awarded to the three riders timed as fastest up the actual ascent will win three, two and one point each.
The last time that this was a feature of the opening time trial was in 2000 in Futuroscope. David Millar posted the fastest time for the entire course, but German sprinter Marcel Wust sprinted up the ascent and took the polka-dot jersey after the prologue.
This is the third time since 2000 that the Tour de France has begun with a time trial (not a prologue). The previous occasions were in 2000 â€“ when David Millar won a 16.5km test in Futuroscope; and in 2005 â€“ when Dave Zabriskie beat Lance Armstrong by two seconds on the 19km course from Fromentine to Noirmoutier.
The winners of recent prologues were:
Fabian Cancellara (2007 & 2004), Thor Hushovd (2006), Brad McGee (2003), Lance Armstrong (2002 & 1999) and Christophe Moreau (2001).
With the exception of the Australian, McGee, all are riding this yearâ€™s Tour.
Luis Pasamontes has set the best time of the day at the finish. He is the first rider to finish the 15.5km course in less than 21 minutes. His time is 20’57", five seconds faster than the former Finnish champion Jussi Veikkanen.
At the intermediate check, Armstrong is 22" faster than the next best rider so far. That is Columbia’s Maxime Monfort.
At the top of the climb, Armstrong has set a time of 11’39". This is the best time of the day so far.
Lance Armstrong has now shifted to the small chainring and his cadence is very high as he climbs the category-four cote de Beausoleil.
With 11 men past the intermediate time check, the fastest so far is Luis Pasamontes of the Caisse d’Epargne team. He has set a time of 12’11" at the top of the cote de Beausoleil.
Armstrong has been swapping from aero position to standing and spinning the pedals at a rapid cadence. He has selected the highest cog on his cassette and is crossing his chain severely as he keeps the chain in the big ring on the front.
As he waits for his count down, Armstrong has raised his right hand to wave to the enormous crowd of media and fans who have come to see him return to the Tour.
The first rider to start the time trial who has previously won a stage of the Tour de France will be Kurt Asle Arvesen. The Norwegian won in Foix last year. He is the first of the Saxo Bank team to do the time trial today.
The first man to start the time trial, Kenny van Hummel, has just arrived at the top of the climb. His time for the first 8km is 13’43".
Of the four previous winners of the Tour de France who are in the line-up for the 2009 edition, the first to start the opening stage is Lance Armstrong (AST). He is due to begin the 15.5km race at 4.17pm. Then comes Oscar Pereiro (GCE) at 6.08pm, Alberto Contador (AST) at 7.05pm and the defending champion Carlos Sastre (CTT) â€“ the last man to start the time trial today â€“ at 7.08pm.
The seven-time Tour champion has left the Astana team’s compound; Lance Armstrong is on his way to the start house after muscling his way through a huge gathering of fans who are trying to catch a glimpse of the man who is about to make his return to racing at the Tour de France after a three-year absence.
The first 160 riders in the time trial will start at one-minute intervals (from 4.00pm until 6.39pm). After that, there will be 90 seconds between each rider.
Kenny van Hummel is making his debut in the Tour de France. The Dutchman is the first to start the opening stage of the 96th edition. He has just left the start house and is now in the aero position at the base of the climb.
Judging on the conditions in the days leading up to todayâ€™s time trial, the riders can expect to compete in similar conditions this afternoon. There is little chance of rain although it is humid. On Wednesday afternoon there were a few drops of rain at 6.30pm but not enough to even wet the road, although a crack of thunder could be heard in the principality at around 7.00pm although the storm front never actually made it to Monaco.
The forecast is for a temperature of around 28 degrees Celsius but because of the high humidity it seems a lot hotter.
Teams can nominate the order that they would like the riders to start the time trial in. It’s worth noting that Astana has decided that its first starter will be Lance Armstrong. He is the 18th man to begin the time trial and he is due to commence his Tour de France comeback at 4.17pm.
The 2007 champion, Alberto Contador - also from the Astana team - is the third-last man to start; his scheduled time is 7.05pm.
There is a category-four climb as part of the 15.5km circuit for the time trial. The judging will conducted by timing the riders from the start of the stage to the top of cote de Beausoleil which is at the 8km mark. A polka-dot jersey will be presented to the fastest man up the ascent at the end of the stage.
The 96th edition of the Tour de France is due to commence at 4.00pm.
The conditions in Monaco are hot, humid and overcast. Clouds have been
hovering high above the principality early today but so far no rain has
fallen. According to some locals, however, on days like this it’s not
uncommon for a summer shower to happen at around six o’clock in the
The first rider to start the 15.5km time trial that starts and finishes
near the harbor is Kenny van Hummel of the Skil-Shimano team.
The defending champion, Carlos Sastre of the Cervelo TestTeam, is the
last rider to start the race today. He’s scheduled departure time is