SAN DIEGO, June 30, 2012 – The start of the 99th Tour de France provided a repeat of history as Swiss champion Fabian Cancellara demolished the course in a time of 7 minutes, 13 seconds to win the Prologue over the streets of Liege, Belgium. It is the same course where he won his first time trial in his rookie year at the Tour de France in 2004 over Lance Armstrong.
After the race, the rider nicknamed “Spartacus” tweeted his fans: “What a prolog… i am so HAPPY and proud. thanks for all the support and finger crossing. tomorrow gona defend it with the strong @RSNT team.”
Top contenders Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain’s Sky Racing and 2011 Tour champion Cadel Evans of Australia on team BMC are positioned right where they want to be to for a win three weeks from now in the world’s most well-known and prestigious race in professional cycling. Wiggins placed second, seven seconds behind Cancellara at 7 minutes, 20 seconds. Evans is in the top 15, in 13th place with a time of 7 minutes, 30 seconds. Wiggins told his Twitter followers he enjoyed a cup of tea after the Prologue.
Also notable was the fourth place result for American rider Tejay van Garderen of BMC with a time of 7:23, who won the white jersey awarded to the best young rider in the Tour de France (25 and under). He is a rising American star and one to watch.
French road champion Sylvain Chavanel held the lead early and kept it until Wiggins beat him by one second, then fell to third when Cancellara took the win. In fifth is Norwegian Evald Boaasen-Hagen, Bradley Wiggins’ Sky teammate.
Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, winner of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, is in 15th place, 18 seconds back and just one second behind Cadel Evans. Italy’s Vicenzo Nibali also has the same time as Hesjedal.
If you’re wondering why you haven’t read Tony Martin’s name, the world road champion had a mechanical failure and had to swap out his bike on the course. Martin handled it as calmly as he could considering the circumstances, But it destroyed his chance to be in contention for the first yellow jersey, clearing the way for Cancellara’s win. It is one of those heartbreaking moments that comes in a sport like cycling when the machinery fails the human effort. Martin recovered to finish in 45th place, 23 seconds back. If he’d gotten back those lost seconds he might have won.
Among American riders, Tour veteran George Hincapie with BMC finished in 22nd place, 20 seconds back with a time of seven minutes and 33 seconds, quite a good result. Tyler Farrar is in 30th place, 21 seconds back; Christian Vandevelde is 22 seconds back in 35th place; David Zabriskie is 26 seconds back in 69th place; all with Garmin-Sharp. Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quick Step sits 81st, 28 seconds back. Forty year old Chris Horner of Radio Shack-Nissan is 113th out of 198 riders, 34 seconds back. Tom Danielson makes the top 100 with a time of 7 minutes and 44 seconds.
A big disappointment: Frank Schleck, who hasn’t looked good all year and didn’t show much improvement in his time trial skills today. He is in 138th place, 38 seconds back. This is not an insurmountable difference at this early stage, but the Radio Shack-Nissan rider hasn’t given his followers much hope. With his brother Andy out of the race due to a fractured pelvis, it isn’t likely we will see a Schleck on the podium this year.
Tomorrow’s Stage 1 remains in Belgium around the Ardennes region, with several short sharp mountains and a one-kilometer uphill finish that will test the sprinters like Mark Cavandish and Peter Sagan.
The 2012 Tour de France remains a wide-open race with no one completely ruled out due to injuries or crashes today. Evans and Wiggins remain favorites but plenty of riders have the ability to put it all together and win the Tour. They must count avoid the sort of bad luck Tony Martin suffered today, stay illness and injury free, and hope their teammates ride strong throughout the 20 stages to come. This is what it takes to win professional cycling’s most glorious title.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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