Tour de France 2012 stage one - report

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Tour de France

Tour de France prologue: crushing victory for Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan-Trek) has won the prologue time trial of the 2012 Tour de France.

Cancellara returned to his brilliant best for victory in Liege

The Swiss rider powered to victory over the 6.3km course before thousands of spectators in Liege, Belgium, to win by a crushing seven seconds.

Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins finished second, while Sylvain Chavenel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) took the final podium slot with a time almost identical to Wiggins.

The Londoner produced an astonishing second half of the ride to finish .42” ahead of long-term leader Chavenel, despite being six seconds down on the French champion three kilometres earlier at the first time check.

But Cancellara was untouchable, reaffirming his position as the world’s premier rider against the clock in short prologues.

The Swiss champion, who lost several months through injury after a fall at the Tour of Flanders, dedicated the victory to his wife.

“Every victory is important. Today was a special one. That’s my job. I was motivated. A victory I will not forget for a long, long time. This victory goes to my wife. She was so close to me all this month. I’m still enjoying what I’m doing and that’s why I could put everything on the road today.”

World time trial champion, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) could perhaps have run Cancellara close, but a mechanical fault and subsequent bike change blunted his challenge and he finished 23 seconds down in 45th position.

Tony Martin would perhaps have been Cancellara’s closest challenger, had a flat tire not ended his chances

Martin said: “I could feel that I was slipping away on the last roundabout and thought ‘OK, maybe it’s just a little bit slippery,’ but then I realized I had a flat in the back and had to change the bike.

“I think it was a quick change, but it kills the morale and the rhythm. I’m really disappointed. I still have a good time, and I think would have a made a really good time without the flat tire. I wanted to fight for the Yellow.

“I’m disappointed, but I thought ‘just keep on fighting, the long time trials are coming.’ I can tell I have very good condition and now I have to fight now for the next time trial.”

Local hero, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), wore the red, black, and yellow colours of Belgian time trial champion. Roared on by a partisan crowd, he rose from the saddle and powered from the first roundabout after an aggressive entry.

Just two seconds down on then-leader Chavanel at the first time check, Gilbert sprinted, returned to the saddle, and then sat up briefly from the clip-on aero bar and slogged away on the base bar, seemingly gripped by a desire to sprint the final 3.2km to the finish.

Making his way through a wall of noise, spectators pounding on the barriers, he returned to a more aerodynamic position, but crossed the line with the fourth-fastest time of those who had ridden, and ultimately finished ninth.

Two contenders for the white jersey of best young rider, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing), and Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen, both produced impressive performances to finish fourth and fifth respectively, separated by just one second.

Tomorrow’s second stage will take the riders on a 198km rolling parcourse from Liege to Seraing, ending with a 4.7 per cent climb in the closing 2.7km.

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Result

1) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek – 7.13
2) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +7”
3) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +10”
5) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky +11”
6) Brett Lancaster (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge
7) Patrick Gretsch (GER) – Argos-Shimano +12”
8) Denis Menchov (RUS) – Katusha +13”
9) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
10) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +15”

General classification

1) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek – 7.13
2) Bradley Wiggins (GBR) – Team Sky +7”
3) Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
4) Tejay van Garderen (USA) – BMC Racing +10”
5) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky +11”
6) Brett Lancaster (AUS) – Orica-GreenEdge
7) Patrick Gretsch (GER) – Argos-Shimano +12”
8) Denis Menchov (RUS) – Katusha +13”
9) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing
10) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana +15”

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