The time trial maestro has struck again. On a day when the general classification favorites finished a matter of seconds apart from each other, Fabian Cancellara obliterated their time. He finished 18 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador, after blitzing the 15.5km course around Monaco at an average speed of 46.9km/h.
The Progress Report
Racing in the 96th edition of the Tour de France commenced at 4.00pm with Kenny van Hummel (SKS) the first to begin the 15.5km time trial. But it was the 17th rider who many fans in Monaco wanted to see race. Lance Armstrong was the first rider from the Astana team to do the opening stage and he didnâ€™t disappoint, as he posted the best time of the day at both the intermediate check (11â€™39â€ť) and the finish (20â€™12â€ť). He was in demand from the media and he eventually appeared to make a comment about his race 30 minutes after finishing. â€śItâ€™s a difficult course. Itâ€™s very technical, it was hard to find a rhythm. 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.â€ť
By the time Armstrong emerged to offer his appraisal, his time had been beaten by two riders. Tony Martin (THR) who was 12â€ť faster at the 7.5km mark and 3â€ť quicker than the American at the finish. Then came Armstrongâ€™s team-mate, Levi Leipheimer â€“ the winner of the stage 19 time trial in his previous appearance at the Tour, in 2007 â€“ who was three seconds slower than Martin at the intermediate check but three seconds faster at the finish. Leipheimerâ€™s average speed was 46.4km/h.
The top of the standings remained unchanged after the arrival of David Millar (GRM) who was fourth fastest at the intermediate check and fifth at the finish after a scare on a sharp right turn which almost forced him to unclip from the pedals on the descent. The winner of the opening time trial of the 2000 Tour finished 18â€ť slower than Leipheimer.
It wasnâ€™t until the 131st starter that the top five was altered; Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) posted a time of 11â€™30â€ť at the intermediate check and at the finish he was just 2.1 seconds behind Leipheimer. Then came a charge by Kloden who was fourth best at the 7.5km mark but then surged over the final part of the course, taking eight seconds out of the time set by his Astana team-mate. Klodenâ€™s average speed was 46.7km/h.
The GC Guys Begin Their Quest
When the route was announced for this opening stage, there was almost universal belief that the general classification candidates would fight it out for honors in the time trial. The prediction came true, to an extent. The 2007 champion Alberto Contador was second, the two-time runner-up Cadel Evans was fifthâ€¦ but it was the time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara who dominated the day with an outstanding performance. The Swiss Saxo Bank rider won the prologues of the 2004 and 2007 Tours de France and today he obliterated his rivals with a performance that was 18 seconds faster than anyone else.
Cancellara The King Of The TT
Lance Armstrong can be happy with a top 10 finish and 22â€ť separated him from his Astana team-mate Contador but 18 second ahead of the 2007 champion was the master of the time trial, the 2006 and 2007 world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Fabian Cancellara. He earned his fourth stage victory in the Tour de France with an outstanding ride that was strong on the climb and phenomenal on the descent. He was six seconds behind Contadorâ€™s time at the top of the Beausoleil climb but 18â€ť ahead of the Spaniard by the time he reached harbour. Contadorâ€™s consolation is the opportunity to wear the polka-dot jersey for the first time.
The winner of the 2007 Tour de France began the 2009 edition with a second place in the opening time trial. By posting the best time at the top of the Beausoleil climb, he also earned the polka-dot jersey.
â€śThis race has begun very well for me. Itâ€™s good for the morale and the faith that my team has put in me. Today I had a very good feeling and itâ€™s definitely not disappointing to finish second behind Cancellara. He is so strong in this disciple and heâ€™s currently in great shape. I like the polka-dot jersey but my goal is, of course, to swap it with the yellow one. I think Iâ€™m in the best condition possible and, concerning the matter of leadership in the team, this should not be a problem. At any rate, we will all work together to ensure that one of us succeeds.â€ť
He didn’t have the best start to the season but by the time Fabian Cancellara arrived at the Tour de France, he was the favorite for the opening time trial. And he proved why...
â€śIâ€™ve demonstrated now, in many time trials and other races, that Iâ€™m fast and that Iâ€™m also back now. Itâ€™s been a hard time to get back to the top of my form and now to have the yellow after a beautiful race is something that I really appreciate.
â€śItâ€™s amazing to come back from a difficult spring campaign; it was not easy but I fought really hard to get everything that I once had back. I wanted to get fast and to be as strong as possible and now, with the Tour de Suisse win and the yellow jersey â€“ just like two years ago, with the same number, 33 â€“ well, I like that.
â€śI did my own race. I tried to get everything out of myself. I also had to be careful not to go over the limit on the climb. I had to get what I could from the descent and also be ready for the last five kilometers because that final section looks flat but it was hard stuff.
â€śMy message was already sent in the Tour de Suisse: Iâ€™m back and Iâ€™m going well. Now today I showed again that itâ€™s all coming together. To be the big favorite and to show everything was true is good but I had to fight like everybody else. Iâ€™m happy to be in yellow and Iâ€™ll enjoy it for as long as possible.â€ť
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.