SAINT-MALO // If his peers are to be believed then Fabian Cancellara is a certainty to win today's time trial in Cholet. The first of two contre la montre in this year's race comes early enough for Cancellara, the world's best rider against the clock, to have enough in his ample legs to take the win.
His CSC Saxo Bank teammate Jens Voigt described the Swiss rider as "a machine against the clock" ahead of the 29.5km test. "It's just amazing," the German said. "He makes it look so effortless while the time trial is just horrible for riders like me. We as a team hope he'll win while he'll just expect to win." Among the riders breathing down Cancellara's neck ought to be Britain's David Millar, who has a six-second advantage over his rival in the general classification and a good chance of picking up the yellow jersey if he can recapture his best time-trial form.
However, Millar played down his chances. He said: "Fabian Cancellara is in a different class. When he's 100 per cent race fit, which he seems to be, he tends to be unbeatable. "When I'm 100 per cent, which I am, I'm pretty good and I've beaten him before so we'll see. I'll give it a go." One rider aiming to make up ground on Alejandro Valverde is Cadel Evans, who has focused heavily on his time-trialling with his Silence-Lotto team over the winter and described it as "when the Tour really starts".
But the Australian also marked out Cancellara as the man to beat on the stage. He said: "He looks pretty powerful right now. If I get close to his time I'll be happy as he's the time-trial benchmark." At the end of the third stage, however, neither of the three could figure in the top 10 of the results and make a mark. Mark Cavendish finished tenth while Millar was eighth overall. The race was peppered with strong winds and intermittent rain.