Stage 1 - 15.5km Time Trial - Monaco, Saturday 4 July 2009 | Results
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Wiggins Gives Himself a Chance of Yellow
Brad Wiggins in full flow at last week's national championships (Image: Andy Whitehouse)
Whilst Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara reminded everyone that he is currently the world's leading Time Trial rider with a scintillating ride round the 15.5km opening stage of the 2009 Tour de France, in Monaco, it was encouraging for all British fans to see a very trim and determined Bradley Wiggins taking a deserved third place, one of only a handful of riders dipping under the 20 minute mark for the stage.
Wiggins has prepared for this Tour more thoroughly than any other major Road event in his career, lopping pounds off his already lean frame and he clearly holds ambitions to make his mark on the race. He could well do this if his strong Garmin-Slipstream team can put 20 seconds or so into the teams of Cancellara and second placed Alberto Contador during Tuesday's Team Time Trial. That would put Wiggins in the leader's yellow jersey, but it's a big ask as Cancellara's Saxo Bank team and Contador's Astana team both have fantastic strength in depth and boast several of the pre-race favourites.
So, what of the other big names?
With Astana leader Contador having made his early mark, team-mate Lance Armstrong will have to content himself with keeping his personal ambitions under wraps for the time being, despite a pretty impressive 10th place. It's ten years since his dramatic first win in the Tour. How time and his lay-off have treated him since will be one of the key talking points of this year's Tour.
Three big hitters also showing well on day one were Armstrong's team-mates Andreas Kloden and Levi Leipheimer and Silence Lotto's Cadel Evans. All three slotted into the top ten and managed to put some early clear water between themselves and last year's winner Carlos Sastre, who had a quiet opening stage, finishing in 21st, a minute and 6 seconds down on Cancellara.
The Schleck brothers have long been touted as future winners of the race, but their strengths generally lie in the mountains, so their 18th (Andy) and 67th (Frank) placings should not be taken as anything other than expected. However, Giro D'Italia winner Dennis Menchov will perhaps have been a little underwhelmed by his 53rd place. He already has work to do if he is to challenge credibly for the overall win.
Finally, the Brits: Dave Miller was 14th, Charly Wegelius 92nd and Mark Cavendish 177th.
Queston of the day: Why wasn't this stage referred to as the "Prologue"?
Answer: At 15.5km, it was 7.5 km too long to be technically referred to as a prologue.
What's next? Stage 2 (Sunday, July 5 2009) runs from Monaco - Brignoles, a distance of 187 km.