Sunday, July 8, 2007

Cancellara Wins Prologue

The 2007 Tour de France kicked off yesterday in London with a 7.9km prologue through the heart of
the city.  World Time Trial champion Fabian Cancellara took the stage and the first maillot jaune of
the Tour by winning with a blistering pace of 53.7km/h.  He finished with a time of 8'50", crushing
the previous best time set by Andreas Kloden of 9'03".  American George Hincapie finished 3rd, a
further 10 seconds behind.   Cancellara's win was his second Tour de France prologue victory, also
winning in 2004 in Liege, Belgium, against a certain Lance Armstrong.  His victory yesterday was
different than in 2004 though because this time he was under pressure as a favorite for the stage,
whereas in 2004 he was not yet well known.  But in a race where seconds and often tenths of a second
can make all the difference, Cancellara's 13 second beating of Kloden is all the more remarkable and
truly a dominating performance.

Before Cancellara stole the spotlight, all eyes were on Scotland's David Millar and England's
Bradley Wiggins as both riders tried to take advantage of hometown support in their favorite
discipline.  Unfortunately, neither man could turn in a winning performance.  Millar finished a
respectable 13th considering his form from earlier this year, while Wiggins had to settle for 4th
after losing out to Hincapie by tenths of a second for 3rd place.  Another prologue specialist, US
Time Trial champion Dave Zabriskie, also finished slightly below his own high standards by winding
up 11th. 

The pre-race favorites of the Tour de France, meanwhile, all came in within a pretty slender margin
of each other.  Alexandre Vinokourov, Cadel Evans, Levi Leipheimer, Denis Menchov, and Alejandro
Valverde all finished within 13 seconds of each other, assuring that there would be no major time gaps
heading out into the open road.

Yesterday's stage though was as much about the depart town as the race itself.  London got to host
the start of the Tour de France for the first time ever, pulling out all the stops to create a
magical start.  An estimated million people showed up to line the streets and watch all 189 riders
pass by such famous sites as Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and Downing St.
Although England has not been traditionally big on cycling in the past, the hope is that this year's
Tour de France will generate a new excitement for the sport and allow it to gain in popularity.  If
yesterday's spectacle is anything to go on, cycling definitely has a future in England.


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