After months of planning and political shenanigans, the jewel of the UCI's cycling reform, the ProTour, kicked off in Issy-les-Moulineaux with the four kilometre prologue that opened this year's Paris-Nice. Despite the fact that Paris-Nice organisers ASO are still at odds with the UCI over some aspects of the ProTour, there were no obstacles put in the way of the first day of competition.
Although Lance Armstrong is being given the honour of wearing the first ProTour leader's jersey (see following story), it was CSC's Jens Voigt who powered around the 4 km course in 5'15 to win the first ever ProTour race. In second place was last year's Tour prologue winner Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo), followed by Erik Dekker (Rabobank) in third.
"I'm very proud and also very happy about this victory," said a happy Voigt after his victory. "The team has had a superb year so far, and it's great to be able to continue in this way. We have been working extremely hard during the winter, and it's paying off now. I have won a very prestigious leader's jersey here in Paris-Nice, and I really hope we're able to hold on to it for the rest of the race. We have a very strong line-up, and I know I'll get all the support I could possibly want from my teammates."
Voigt's teammates were also strong, with CSC claiming six of the top 17 places. "We've had a fantastic start to this race, and I was very impressed that all our riders did well in the prologue," said team manager Bjarne Riis. "Jens is flying at the moment, and of course this heightens our expectations for a big result. We've been training so hard ahead of Paris-Nice, and now we have once again shown that we have done our homework. We have a lot to be proud of at the moment, and I 'd like to take this opportunity to thank the whole team and all our employees for their efforts, which make it possible for us to achieve results like this."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of the ProTour-Grand Tours split
October 4, 2008 - New ASO chief to maintain values
September 26, 2008 - UCI declares peace, appoints new VP
August 30, 2008 - UCI re-signs five ProTour races
August 22, 2008 - ProTour: Bouncing back or lame duck?
August 19, 2008 - Stapleton analyses 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - Feedback on 'world calendar'
August 18, 2008 - UCI announces 'world calendar'