A Rocket called Fabian…
With the city of Rotterdam all decked up to receive the Tour de France riders, the 97th TdF kicked off to a great start with an 8.9km ride around the city itself. Rotterdam a city that revolves around one of the busiest ports in the entire Euro zone is also one of the most sports friendly cities in Netherlands. The name Rotterdam has evolved from the early 13th century when a dam was built on the “Rotte” river.
Called as the Prologue – this stage is an individual time trial and all the 197 riders start from the same spot with a small time gap. The Prologue is back, having been absent from the programme since London (2007). For the records, the first foreign start of Le Tour took place in the Netherlands, in Amsterdam in 1954.
For those wonder how the 198 riders (9 riders from 22 teams) became 197 even before the race started – the story is like this. Cervalo Test Team has had to drop Florencio Xavier from the final team as he had used a cream for treating his hemorrhoids which has a banned substance and if tested & found by the UCI would have bought disgrace to the entire team. Florencio has apologized to the whole team and hopes to come back next year.
Rotterdam a city of 600,000 people, with more cycles than automobiles, had pulled out all stops to accommodate all the cycling fans who had thronged the start venue. With the race course going over the splendid Erasmus bridge (Erasmusburg), the photographers & camera men were seen trying to get different shots of the race in progress.
All the teams had taken a ride across the course yesterday and most had marked their corners & strategies. But what almost all missed was the rains that struck the race after some 30 min of racing. With the race starting in an inclement weather, all the serious General Classification riders (GC ) where keenly following the early rides and some of them went out in their team car to check the course after the rains!!
HTC Columbia’s German rider Tony Martin showcased to the world that he is going to be the next big thing in time trialing – when he grabbed his chance as he cycled around the 8.9km course in a time of 10min10sec. This was a time which became the benchmark for almost the entire Prologue.
Bradely Wiggins – a hot contender for the overall title and an Olympic champion in time trialing tried to set an early benchmark, but finished a disappointing 46 sec behind Martin. As the evening wore on it became very clear that beating Martin’s time would be very difficult for most as the wet corners were coming into play and most riders were taking the safety option of finishing the course rather than going for glory. Garmin Transition rider David Millar was the only one who looked like being able to beat Martin’s time, but faded slightly before the finish to end up 10 secs behind Martin.
Strong rides by Levi Leipheimer, Janez Brajkovic & Andreas Kloden of Team Radioshack set the tone for Lance Armstrong’s ride & he in turn churned out his best performance in a time trialing stage after his surprise return to professional cycling last year. Armstrong clocked a time of 10min 22secs and that was where it was when the World Champion Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank exploded on to the race course. Cancellara coming into the tour after superb wins in the early part of the 2010 season (followed by allegations of motorized doping – where a small motor is placed in the cycle frame and which can add a few more watts to the power of the pedal – which he has called as rubbish!!) rode a sensational round around the course and rocketed into lead by clocking 10 min for the course at an amazing speed of 53km/hr!! BTW – the UCI has brought in special scanners to check all the bikes & frames to catch motorized doping & Cancellara did not need anything other than pure pedal power!!
That left it open for the last rider on the course – defending champion Alberto Contador to go for the stage win & the yellow jersey – and all he had to do was stop the clock at 9min 59secs. But it was not to be – as Contador put safety first & rode around in 10min 27secs. Thus Armstrong pulls the first blow in the battle against Contador, by getting a 5 sec lead, which though quite small – is more of a psychological win than anything else.And with 3633km still left to ride, it will be a brave man who tries to read anything into this result.
So with this Fabian Cancellara of Team Saxo Bank takes the first Yellow jersey for TdF 2010. The Green jersey for the best sprinter also goes to Cancellara, but will be worn by Tony Martin in the race. Like last year – Cancellara & team will try and retain the Yellow jersey for a few stages before the race hits the hills, the first major climb coming in on Stage 7.
After the race – Andy Schleck was furious about his race having finished 1min 09secs behind Cancellara. Contador claimed to be satisfied with his ride. Tony Martin who waited the whole afternoon watching others fall by, could only shrug away the Rocket’s performance.
Armstrong in an interview after the race said “I’m happy with the results and happy with the feelings, which are maybe more important than the results. Everything from the start of the day through the warm-up just felt solid. All in all good. Took time on some of the main rivals. Here we go.”
Watch this space for all the action & drama of Tour de France 2010. Stage 2 rolls out of Rotterdam city & finishes in the Belgian city of Brussels.
This is a guest post by Mr.Q, a professional quizmaster and an ardent Tour de France fan who is reporting his 2nd full tour. You can reach him at email@example.com