– By Chris Carmichael –
If CSC wants to hold onto the yellow jersey for the entire first week, they’re in a good position to do so. The big sprinters are at least 40 seconds back, and it takes a lot of sprint bonuses to make up that kind of time. And losing the jersey to a breakaway is somewhat unlikely in the next few days because the sprinters’ teams will be highly motivated to chase them down and set up bunch finishes. Barring a crash, these circumstances could actually make it difficult for CSC to relinquish the yellow jersey over the next few days if they wanted to, but all honesty I think they’ll be quite happy to hold on to it for a while.
And Cancellara certainly earned the honor of wearing the leader’s jersey. No one took the corners as tight as he did, and he was going so fast that he was taking entirely different lines through some bends. At times it looked like he was riding a different course than everyone else. Go back and watch him go through the corner where Stuart O’Grady crashed – just outside the final kilometer. Most riders were going into the corner on the inside and just barely missing the barriers on the exit. Cancellara set up for the turn on the outside and carried a lot more speed through the bend. Winning time trials isn’t just about being able to get the bike up to a high speed, but also being able to keep it there by taking the absolute fastest lines through corners.
So, what does the prologue say about the yellow jersey contenders? Well, Alexander Vinokourov’s performance indicated that he’s ready, and the fact that two of his Astana teammates (Andrey Kashechkin and Andreas Kloden) finished in the top 16 confirms that he brought a team to be reckoned with as well.
The only other team to put three riders in the top 20 was Discovery Channel, and Levi Leipheimer – their man going for the yellow jersey – finished 26th. Considering that Leipheimer is only 10 seconds behind Vinokorouv and a few seconds ahead of Alejandro Valverde, Discovery Channel is likely pretty happy with today’s results.
The only pre-race favorite who might be disappointed with today’s performance is Carlos Sastre of CSC. The Tour de France is not won in the prologue, but it’s very difficult to win the yellow jersey when you’re not a very good time trialist and you give up 26 seconds to a guy like Vinokorouv on the first day.
The 2007 Tour de France is finally on the road, and tomorrow is likely to be the first clash of the world’s best sprinters. But before the sprinters take center stage, the peloton has to make it through the stage. The first day out on the open road is very nervous. Everyone is fresh and antsy and there are always pileups. By the end of Stage 1, Stuart O’Grady won’t be the only one nursing scrapes and bruises.
• Chris Carmichael coached Lance Armstrong throughout his 15-year cycling career. For more information on Carmichael Training Systems’ 9+3 Coaching Offer, the Do the Tour…Stay at Home™ audio workouts with Lance Armstrong, and our free Tour de France Newsletter, visit TrainRight.com.