Fabian Cancellara is the first to see yellow at the Tour de France, winning the prologue time trial that runs 6.4km. Now comes Stage 1 that finishes in Seraing with a small uphill run.
Tour de France:Cancellara passes the first trial
LIEGE, Belgium // Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara won the prologue of the Tour de France on Saturday and became the first man to wear the leader's yellow jersey in the 99th edition of the race.
The reigning Olympic time trial gold-medallist clocked a winning time of seven minutes, 3.46 seconds over the 6.4-kilometre course.
His victory in the centre of Liege was almost identical to his Tour win here in 2004.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins, the favourite for overall victory, was second, seven seconds behind and less than half a second ahead of the Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel.
Cancellara said: "It's great. I'm really proud to have won here today eight years after my first Tour victory in Liege. It hasn't been the best season for me, but this really helps make amends.
"You can't ask for a better start. I left everything out on the road and am very proud of what I've achieved."
Although only a time trial, some yellow jersey contenders as well as a handful of outsiders hoping to challenge for the race's big prize were left counting their gains and losses.
The defending Tour champion Cadel Evans of Australia was last off the ramp and limited his losses on Wiggins by finishing 13th, 17 seconds behind Cancellara and 10 behind Wiggins.
"It was not good, but not bad," said Evans, a two-time runner-up who in 2011 became the first Australian to win the race.
"Of course, I'd rather concede less seconds; you never want to lose time."
He noted Wiggins's background in short and flat races but said:
"It's 6.4km out of 3,500, so in that regard it's a small comparison. The real racing starts now."
Any disappointment from the BMC camp on Evans's performance will be balanced by Tejay van Garderen's promising fourth-place finish, 10 seconds behind Cancellara.
The American, 23, who is set to be one of Evan's main helpers in the mountains, pulled on the white jersey for the best-placed rider age 25 or younger.
The Italian Vincenzo Nibali, considered by many as the man most likely to threaten Wiggins and Evans, did well to finish 14th, 11 seconds behind Wiggins and one second behind Evans.
However, some riders already have lost precious time.
Luxembourg's Frank Schleck, who was third overall last year, finished 135th, 38 seconds behind RadioShack teammate Cancellara, and Movistar's contender Alejandro Valverde of Spain finished 35 seconds back. Germany's Tony Martin suffered a puncture, which probably knocks him out of contention.
UPHILL RUN TO FINISH OF STAGE 1 FAVOURS 'PUNCHERS'
The victory hopes of the sprint rivals Mark Cavendish and Matt Goss will be put on hold on Sunday when the opening stage of the Tour ends on a small uphill finish more suited to the "punchers".
The race peloton hits the road for the first of 20 stages and 3,479 gruelling kilometres.
The first week gives the fast men of the peloton plenty of opportunity to show their top-end speed, but the 2.4km uphill finish at the end of Sunday's stage, in Seraing, should be beyond their reach.
More likely to win: riders like Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde, Philippe Gilbert, Joaquin Rodriguez and Simon Gerrans, who are known, in cycling parlance, as "punchers" for their ability to finish fast after sustained efforts on uphill finishes.
Valverde anticipates a nervous finish to the stage. "It's quite a complicated finale, with the uphill finish which is quite technical," he said.
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