Others dared to try and take on the world champion and Tony Martin very nearly succeeded in taking the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France in 2010 - but then came the Cancellara Express...!
For the third time in six years, Fabian Cancellara has taken the first yellow jersey of the Tour de France. The reigning world time trial champion is the first rider born in the 1980s to win a stage of the Tour (as he did in Liege at the start of the 2004 edition), he has since become a dominant force in cycling - winning world championships (three times), the Olympic gold medal (in Beijing) and numerous Classics. In Rotterdam he was just too good and the others didn’t stand a chance against this powerhouse from Saxo Bank.
Tony Martin endured an anxious wait after being the 11th of 197 riders to start the prologue in Rotterdam and setting the early standard. His time of 10’10" would last until the third-last rider to start stormed across the line. Cancellara took the yellow and green jerseys but the German earned a good consolation: the white jersey as best young rider.
The Progress Report
The 2010 Tour de France officially began at 4.15pm with a prologue on the streets of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Only an hour before the beginning of this 8.9km time trial, there was a light rain shower but it was only enough to make the road damp for the flat route around the city.
The first rider to begin the prologue of the 97th edition of the Tour was Spaniard Ivan Mayoz of the Footon-Servetto team; his time of 11’10" was quickly eclipsed as the early starters had the benefit of relatively dry roads. Rain fell about an hour before the start of the time trial and the road was slightly damp but it didn’t hinder the German TT champion Tony Martin who sped around the out-and-back course in 10’10" to set the best time of the day. He was never challenged by the other early starters, not even the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky - they finished 22 and 46 seconds behind the HTC-Columbia rider, respectively.
After an hour of racing, the rain began to fall again and it ensured that the roads were wet for the duration of the prologue.The surprise was the ride by Tyler Farrar who did his race in the rain and finished 18 seconds behind Martin. Leipheimer finished just 0.02 of a second behind the American and showed that his RadioShack team has plenty of depth in this year’s Tour. Gerraint Thomas then pushed the American down the rankings with an effort that was 13 seconds behind the German champion’s time.
Martin may not have been hindered by rain but he did his race on wet roads and no one was able to get close to him until David Millar nudged to within three seconds at the intermediate check (4.2km) and then 10 seconds behind at the finish.
As expected the last starters were able to muscle their way into the top order of the prologue with Lance Armstrong (RSH) finishing 12" behind Martin, an impressive time but not enough to eclipse David Millar. And then came the charge of the world champion: Fabian Cancellara finished the 9.8km course in 10:00.480. His average speed was 53.4km/h. It is the fourth time he has won the opening day of the Tour and taken the yellow jersey (following his efforts from 2004, 2007 and 2009).
Tony Martin began his time trial at 4.25pm. He took 10 minutes, 10 seconds to finish the 8.9km course. And then he waited. No rider could beat that time... until Fabian Cancellara came storming home at 7.41 - exactly 10 minutes after he started. The German earned the white jersey as consolation for his second place.
"It was a long wait. I’m glad I had my girlfriend there with me to calm me down. I felt good in the race and it was tense watching all the others come in, wondering if I had done enough. In the end, Fabian was better. That’s how it happens some times. We’re in a good position, we have a prize and I’m well placed in the general classification. I came close today and I’m pleased with that but it would have been great to have the yellow jersey.
"The team has the fastest man in the world and Mark [Cavendish] is in great condition. I missed out on the win today but perhaps we can get one tomorrow."
The manager of the Saxo Bank team was grinning like a cheshire cat the the finish of the prologue. The time trial specialist delivered once again...
"Ah, it’s Fabian. He’s special. He’s an amazing rider. His style is pure power; he rocks around a little but that’s how he gets the power down. I know the figures that he can produce (in wattage) and I saw again today a man who was at the top of his form. It’s beautiful to watch.
"We’re in a good position. We have a team that can defend the jersey for a few days and it suits us to be at the front of the peloton in the next few days. It’s safer up there and even though we spend some energy, it’s worth it to stay out of trouble... and keep the yellow jersey, of course."
Rain did fall on the opening day in Rotterdam. Most of the riders had to contend with wet roads and some even gambled by starting early as late showers were forecast... but Fabian Cancellara bided his time and came out fighting. The third-last man to start is back in the yellow jersey once again. It’s the fourth time he’s won the opening stage of the Tour after 2004, 2007 and 2009.
"Of course we had to play the gamble with the weather and it was a little tough to sit on the bus for so long to wait for my ride but if I look around now, it’s golden, bright, sunshine-filled end to the day. It was the right decision to go late. I followed one of my team-mates to see how it was with the wet roads because yesterday I trained on the course but it was hot and the conditions were completely different. You have to adapt your approach to the situation but I managed to do that and I’m happy with the result.
"It’s a nice round number: 10 minutes for the win. I like that. There are a few interesting day ahead of us but I like wearing the yellow jersey and we have a good team that can defend it.
"I’m proud of what I’ve done today, there was no sense of revenge I just wanted to go the fastest and I did just that. It’s important to try and hold onto the jersey until the Arenberg (in stage three) but first there is Brussels and Spa and it’s not flat at the end of stage two... but it’s the goal to try and wear the yellow jersey on the cobbles."
Fabian Cancellara has spoiled the party for German cycling today by beating Tony Martin’s time and taking the first yellow jersey of the 2010 Tour. The top five is: 1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) SAX - 8.9km in 10’00" (53.4km/h) 2. Tony Martin (GER) THR at 10" 3. David Millar (GBR) GRM at 20" 4. Lance Armstrong (USA) at 22" 5. Gerraint Thomas (GBR) SKY at 23"
Alberto Contador, the last rider to start today, has finished 27" behind Cancellara. It’s enough for sixth place in the Rotterdam prologue.
Fabian Cancellara has beaten Tony Martin’s time by 10". The world champion is going to replace his rainbow jersey with a yellow one. It’s the third time that the Swiss rider has won the opening stage of the Tour de France.
Armstrong’s average speed was 51.5km/h. Lance was not able to beat Martin’s time.
Lance is less than 1,000m from the finish. The final turns are on dry roads and he’s trying to make up the five seconds he lagged behind Martin at the 4.2km mark..