ROTTERDAM On a day when intermittent rains turned the Tour de France Prologue course treacherously slick for all but the first dozen or so riders—out of nearly 200—Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara showed that he is still king of the time-trial by finishing the 5.5-mile course through central Rotterdam, Holland, in an even 10 minutes.
Cancellara, of team Saxo Bank, was 10 seconds faster than runner-up Tony Martin of Team HTC-Columbia, who set his time early in the day, before the rains came. David Millar of Garmin-Transitions was third in 10:20, while Lance Armstrong, who went third from last, finished fourth in 10:22.It was an impressive performance from Armstrong, who finished five seconds ahead of rival Alberto Contador and showed that the strong form he’s had for the past month has come with him to the Tour.
The rain, heavy at times, added a big luck-of-the-draw element to the race, as temperatures also plunged over the three hours of the race, making things even more difficult on the late starters. Mathias Frank of Team BMC finished with blood pouring from his mouth, the result of a crash, and reportedly needed stitches to close the cut.
It was a good day for U.S. riders, as Armstrong’s RadioShack teammate Levi Leipheimer and Garmin-Transitions sprinter Tyler Farrar also finished in the top 10, tied for seventh at 10:28.
Farrar, who has developed into arguably one of the top three or four sprinters in the world, will be targeting stage wins and a possible run at the green sprinter’s jersey, while Leipheimer will be trying to help Armstrong topple Contador and the rest of the overall contenders.
Tomorrow is a pancake-flat stage from Rotterdam to Brussels tailor-made for the sprinters. Expect a showdown between Farrar and England’s Mark Cavendish of Team HTC-Columbia. The GC contenders will hang back, saving themselves for the harsh cobbles of Stage 3, which should be one of the decisive days of this year’s race.
—John BradleyTwitter: johnwbradley