We all figured Fabian Cancellara had a good shot at this first time trial, he seemed a good pick, but there were so many other great riders to consider. This looked to be a great course for Contador, maybe Wiggins, maybe even Lance, so many possibilities. To say that Cancellara was in with a chance now looks shameful. What a horrible understatement that was. I marveled throughout the day about certain times, about certain rides, and then Cancellara made them all look like they were weekend warriors out for a little spin around wonderful Monaco. Adjectives, adverbs, and superlatives do not do his dominating performance justice. He took the world’s best bike racers, all on 100% top form, and made them look like they were second class hobos.
20 minutes was a great time throughout the day. It took most of the day before anyone could even crack the elusive mark. Klцden managed it first, and for awhile, it looked like, somehow, just maybe, he could take the improbable win and completely upset the Astana hierarchy, but it’s just so easy to forget about the late starters on a long first day of time trialing at the Tour de France.
Sure enough, when they got to pounding the roads of Monaco and Cap d’Ail, the times started going down down down, and then Cancellara took the trend, attached a large 2 ton boulder to it, and took it WAY down. 18 seconds faster than his next closest competitor to be exact, a guy by the name of Contador.
Well friends, we know where that Yellow Jersey is going to be for quite awhile now.
Let’s Go Back To The Beginning
There was a fair bit of wondering going on about afternoon thundershowers hitting the Monaco area today. So much so that two of the favored riders for the whole time trial raced almost three hours ahead of defending champ Carlos Sastre: both Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong were part of the early going, and were thus early time setters.
In other early pre-race news, it was reported that Belgian Champ and late entry, Tom Boonen, was suffering from gastro-intestinal distress. Sometimes I am very glad that I am not a superstar bike racer. Can you imagine what it would be like to have it broadcast worldwide every time you came down with a bout of diarrhea? Sounds pleasant. Anyhow, back to the show, at this point, we’ll call it the Lance Armstrong Show. He’s about to take the lead.
Armstrong looked powerful and smooth as he cruised to a new best time, though at that point it wasn’t too terribly spectacular. He pushed Columbia’s Maxime Monfort into second – not exactly Alberto Contador, Fabian Cancellara…or Levi Leipheimer.
Before I get to Levi Leipheimer and his impressive ride, Columbia’s Tony Martin put paid to any chances of an Armstrong opening day shocker. He pushed the seven time champ into second, and after that, it was all downhill for Armstrong. Next came Levi with an excellent effort: he managed 20:02 on the testing course. His time held for a long while, and for a moment there was thought that perhaps the time would be good enough. Oh, what a simpleton I was.
Let’s Go Sub-20, Shall We?
Not so fast, Misters Leipheimer, Armstrong, and Contador. Remember that guy, Andreas Klцden? Oh yeah, he was once second at the Tour de France. He absolutely blasted the course to take 8 seconds off of Levi to stop the clock at 19:54. Brilliant work and an incredible moment of, oh yeah, you’re pretty fast too, aren’t you?
Klцden’s impressive time withstood the slings and arrows of numerous comers, some rides more surprising than others, others just plain disappointing, but there was always the sneaking suspicion that the last few riders might have a thing or two to say about Klцden’s best time.
Klцden’s time was great, but it was nowhere near enough to hold off the onslaught of the final riders. The times that had stood strong throughout the day came tumbling quickly as the final riders did their best F1 impressions. Wiggins, Evans, Cancellara, and Contador all posted sub-11:30 splits. Before them, only Tony Martin had managed the feat. Alberto Contador smashed the split-time lead with a jaw-dropping 11:22. A certain Spaniard had a point to prove.
Then Klцden’s time officially fell to Bradley Wiggins in a fantastic (or what seemed to be fantastic) 19:51. How much faster could they go on this course?
Fabian Cancellara had an answer. He annihilated Wiggins’ time and everyone else at Le Tour for that matter with a, read it, 19:32 – almost 20 seconds faster than Wiggins. Whoa.
Still left to finish were Contador and Evans. Carlos Sastre never had a prayer in this time trial, and was 23rd at the split check. Contador had the best time at the time check, Evans wasn’t much further back – could either rival the incredible feat of the new Swiss Premier, Fabian Cancellara?
Contador couldn’t, nor could Evans. Contador put in a marvelous ride to finish at 19:50, Evans five seconds back at 19:55, neither a threat to Cancellara. Contador had made his point very clear though. He pounded Lance for 22 seconds, Levi for 12, and Klцden for 4. It’s going to be hard to put anyone from Astana in front of the ‘defending’ Tour champ from 2007.
The rest of the major contenders? We’ll say Contador was 1st out of the final Maillot Jaune hopefuls, so…
Vande Velde 0:39
A Schleck 0:42
Menchov? Forget about it.
Those are serious time gaps for the first stage. In a Tour where many expect it could come down to the final day and be decided by seconds…well, Contador’s 48 seconds on Sastre has to be a very stern statement.
We can’t neglect Cadel Evans though. It’s so easy at the moment, yet Cadel rode the best of the rest. He rode a great time trial, acquitted himself admirably, and already has himself in a great spot to vie for the Yellow Jersey. Methinks I downplayed his chances a bit too much earlier this week.
Preview: Stage 2
Tomorrow’s Stage 2 shouldn’t be a dull, lazy roll through southern France. The stage is lumpy, tough, and hot. The early hills along the Mediterranean Coast will gradually ease off as the stage heads inland to the finish in Brignoles. There will be a break, some KOM points will be won, but put your money on a bunch sprint. And since I said bunch sprint, you should be thinking one name: Cavendish.
Yellow Jersey? Barring accident, injury, or alien abduction you can bet the farm on Cancellara starting Stage 3 in Yellow.
Stage 1 Results
1. Cancellara 19:32
2. Contador 0:18
3. Wiggins 0:19
4. Klцden 0:22
5. Evans 0:23
6. Leipheimer 0:30
7. Kreuziger 0:32
8. Martin 0:33
9. Nibali 0:37
10. Armstrong 0:40
General Classification After Stage 1