Alberto Contador played down his chances prior to the Dauphiné but it didn’t take him a long time until he went beyond his own expectations. For the first time in his career, the double winner of the Tour de France claimed a stage win in the Alpine race with setting the fastest time in the 6.8km prologue. The Spanish star preceded American neo-pro Tejay Van Garderen by two seconds and confirmed to be inspired by the lakesides for riding fast against the clock. After winning in Annecy at the Tour de France last year, he took all the honours in Evian-les-Bains this time with an average speed of 47.626km/h. Race favourite David Millar only finished in thirteenth position at 15 seconds.
Many provisional leaders until Brajkovic
The possible changes of the weather conditions near the Léman lake have been a major concern for the team managers. Some of them opted for early starts for their strong time triallists. It was the case of Cofidis with Rein Taarämae and Caisse d’Epargne with Christophe Moreau but no storm disturbed the race in the evening.
The first hour of racing saw a succession of worthy best scorers with Andrey Zeits (Astana), Laurent Mangel (Saur-Sojasun), Stephan Denifl (Cervélo), Jean-Christophe Péraud (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Maarten Tjallingi (Rabobank) and Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale). Rémi Pauriol (Cofidis) was the next French rider to take the command in 8.46 but only three minutes later, Slovenian champion for time trial Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) clocked a new best time in 8.39.
The revelation Van Garderen
Brajkovic led the race for more than one hour until Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) completed the course three seconds faster than him. The young American who finished second overall and against the clock at the Tour of Turkey preserved himself in the climb where he scored the eighth best time only but he was the today’s revelation at the highest level of cycling as the strongest finisher downhill and on the flat section alongside the Léman lake.
Contador wins in the climb
Alberto Contador did everything well: he rode the fastest time uphill, four seconds better than Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) who had given it all in the climb. The Spaniard kept two seconds advantage over Van Garderen and claimed the first stage win of his career at the Dauphiné in four participations. He’ll wear the yellow jersey in stage 1 from Evian-les-Bains to Saint-Laurent-du-Pont (191.5km).
I don’t always win and my form is not as good now as it is usually in July. I had a good race today. The downhill was pretty technical. This is my first competition since I took a break after Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I’m here to prepare for the Tour, it remains my main goal this week. Tomorrow, I’ll be happy to give the yellow jersey to another rider. I’ll ride more cautiously than at the Tour de France in three weeks time from now.
Prologue top 5:
1. Alberto Contador (Astana), 8.34
2. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia), 8.36
3. Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), 8.39
4. Geraint Thomas (Sky), 8.44
5. Dario Cataldo (Quick Step), 8.46
Alberto Contador claims his first stage win at the Dauphiné in four participations. He’ll start stage 1 with the leader’s jersey.
Alberto Contador beats the time of Tejay Van Garderen in 8.34. He’s the stage winner.
Alberto Contador has climbed the first two kilometres in 4.25, which is 4 seconds faster than Jérôme Coppel.
British rider Geraint Thomas (Sky) scored the third best time in 8.44 while his compatriot David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) didn’t meet the expectations. He finished in 8.49, which is not valid for a top ten finish.