What We Learned
For those of us who follow professional cycling in the US, July brings us three weeks of questions from friends, co-workers and pretty much anyone else we come in contact with.
“How hard can it be to ride a bike?”
“Do you think Lance Armstrong will win again?”
“Why do you wear spandex?”
And of course the one that brings us to today’s stage, “What is a prologue, and why isn’t it considered the first stage?”
By definition, a Prologue is a short individual time trial used to determine who will wear the leader's jersey on the first stage of a race.
In reality, it’s a ceremonial start to races like the Tour de France that gives specialists a chance to wear (in this case) the yellow jersey.
Riders who might not even make it through the first week of racing have a chance to wear yellow, and more than one rider felt his career was complete after winning the yellow jersey on a short prologue stage.
So for many, the prologue is their shot at glory.
2010 Tour Prologue Preview
Who are the likely winners, and more importantly, who are today’s big losers?
The likely winners are guys like Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara, HTC-Columbia’s Tony Martin, and of course, the big names like Lance and Contador.
The latter two will be more concerned with not losing time to their GC rivals than pulling on the yellow jersey this afternoon, but don’t think for a second that any of the main contenders are going to take it easy.
Today’s prologue has a chance to open some considerable time gaps due to a technical and very wet course.
Racers ride wet roads all year long, but open roads are less treacherous than city streets, and traditional road bikes are far more stable on wet roads.
What makes this prologue so dangerous is the painted lane and directional markings abound on city streets.
Add in barriers and tight turns in the city center, and you have a day that could change the complexion of this Tour.
This leaves riders like Lance with a choice to make: Go for a high placing and risk ending the tour before it begins with a crash on rain-slicked roads, or stay below the rivet and ride defensively, looking ahead to minutes that can be gained in the high mountains and long ITTs to come.
Early Race Report
The rain has indeed opened up some considerable gaps in the Top 10 as early starter Tony Martin holds a 10-second lead over second place, and a surprise third-place American sprinter Tyler Farrar a further :03 back.
There are currently three American riders in the Top Seven.
Several GC riders have lost upwards of 30 seconds as of the middle of the stage.
David Millar of Garmin-Transitions had a fantastic ride and has moved into second place with the big names still to come.
Mid Race report
- The roads are looking much better and riders are still falling away from Martin’s time. Both Carlos Sastre and Andy Schleck have lost nearly a minute to Martin's time.
- Evans and Rogers on the road.
- Thor Hushovd, a serious challenger for the prologue is on the road as well.
- Of the serious contenders, only Leipheimer is within :20 of the lead.
- Armstrong in the start house.
- Evans slots in 19th.
- Rogers in with the 11th fastest time.
- Contador on course.
- Lance is :05 off the best time at first check.
- Cancellara goes through first time check with the best time.
- Contador goes through :01 slower than Armstrong.
- Basso loses :45 at the finish.
- Armstrong sitting third with Contador and Cancellara to go.
- WOW… Cancellara kills it!
- Contador :05 back of Armstrong.
After a very wet start to today’s Prologue, it dried up to allow for an incredible duel between the old man and the kid. And Round One goes to Armstrong.
So what did we learn?
Lance is still Lance, but it’s a long way to Paris. So for the seven-time champion, today proved to be a shot across the bow of Contador's Astana Armada.
Vande Velde did not have a great day, but still sits in a bunch with a host of contenders about a minute back.
Andy Schleck still has a way to go in his time trialing.
Carlos Sastre is not the same guy who won a couple years ago.
Garmin Transitions had a fantastic day.
Radio Shack looks strong and Contador may just get to prove he doesn’t need a stacked team to win the tour. Or not...
Fabian Cancellara is hands-down the best rider against the clock in a long time.
The pre-race favorites were a mixed bag, with some rising to the occasion (Armstrong, Contador, Leipheimer), and others looking very ordinary (Vande Velde, Schleck Brothers, Sastre, Evans, and Vino).
Lance is here to win, and today at least showed him to be every bit the equal of Contador.
Now if Fabian Cancellara could climb...