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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Berty strikes the first blows

"hot, sticky conditions that pitted the 180 riders against a course that climbed for the first 7.5km and offered a tricky descent." Rupert Guinness for Fairfax in Monaco describing the conditions yesterday.
Yesterday's time trial held few surprises. Saxobank’s Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) won the stage, covering the 15.5km course in 19:32 (average speed 47.610km/h) and Astana dominated with four riders in the top ten. The top ten after Stage 1:

  1. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) in 19:32
  2. Alberto Contador (Astana) at 00:18
  3. Bradley Wiggins (Garmin - Slipstream) at 00:19
  4. Andréas Kloden (Astana) at00:22
  5. Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto) at 00:23
  6. Levi Leipheimer (Astana) at 00:30
  7. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) at 00:32
  8. Tony Martin (Columbia - HTC) at 00:33
  9. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) at 00:37
  10. Lance Armstrong (Astana) at 00:40

Evans was disappointed in his ride. "I would prefer the time difference if it was going the other way. I had an okay run..it’s not bad but it could be better," he said, knowing only too well the psychological value of the opening stage. While his rival Contador won this one, Evans shouldn’t feel too bad (and probably isn’t). Just five seconds now separate them.

Contador on his own performance:

"This race has begun very well for me. It’s good for the morale and the faith that my team has put in me. Today I had a very good feeling and it’s definitely not disappointing to finish second behind Cancellara...I think I’m in the best condition possible and, concerning the matter of leadership in the team, this should not be a problem. At any rate, we will all work together to ensure that one of us succeeds." (letour.fr)

As to the stage winner himself, Cancellara had a perfect ride and he and his team look to repeat 2007 and hold the yellow jersey for a week.

"I was one of the favourites to win here before the race and I knew if I got things right it would be very difficult for my rivals to beat me…I knew to take it easy on the climb, to avoid too much lactic acid in the legs, and then go hard on the flat….To be back in the yellow jersey again is a great achievement both for me and my team, I am proud of it….we will now defend the jersey until the team time trial."

Saxobank too will be somewhat satisfied with the performance of Andy Schleck. Not known for his time trialling, he finished 18th at 1 min. His brother Frank finished in 67th at 1min 36. Holding yellow until at least Stage 4 would see Saxobank remain faithful to its objective of controlling the race from the outset.

Last year’s winner, Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) finished in 21st losing at 1min 06 secs while Denis Menchov (Rabobank) surprisingly finished 53rd at 1min 31.

Canberran’s Chain Reaction
Canberra’s son, Michael Rogers was disappointed at finishing yesterday in 27th, one minute 12 seconds down. As reported in Rupert Guinness’ piece on Stage 1 for Fairfax, he lost 30 seconds because of a chain slip. It happened again without him needing to stop, but still hurt his chances of finishing well up near the top ten. Take those 30 seconds off and he would’ve finished just two seconds behind Armstrong. However, for Dodger fans in Canberra and everywhere, he finished excitingly ahead of fellow Colombia teammate/leader Kim Kirchen (I like Kirchen though) who rode home 109th and 1min 57 secs down. The pieces could still fall Mick’s way to lead Colombia for the GC.

Astana – the new internal revolution in France

While it was a little annoying to see the cameras trained on Lance for his entire ride, thus missing important time checks of other riders, it was hard to look away, whatever your thoughts on the man and/or his comeback. It is hard to look away from not just a seven times tour winner, but a 37 year old after four years away from the event riding into the top ten of the opening, tough time trial.

Lance’s thoughts on his performance: "I didn’t have any illusions (about winning the stage) which is logical given I’ve been four years away." However, it was interesting to hear Phil Ligget during the commentary on SBS talk about his mano-a-mano interview with Lance. Armstrong shared with him that he was there to win. Phil also commented that the time trial for Lance wasn’t about beating opponents from other teams, but to strike an internal psychological blow to his Astana teammates, i.e. Contador.

But it looks like Contador won this one too.

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