One of the top favourites to capture the win in the opening 13.8km-long time trial in Utrecht on Saturday afternoon is 30-year-old German rider Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep). The triple time trial world champion hopes to shake off his previous Tour de France prologue problems and finally capture the yellow jersey.
"I ride for yellow and not for the stage win. For sure it's bigger than any other time trial in the middle of the race. It's a really big opportunity for me. [...] I hope I will not beat myself," Martin said.
Back in 2012 his hopes for yellow were dashed when he was confronted with mechanical problems that forced him to switch bikes during the prologue of the Tour de France in Liège, Belgium. Martin hoped bad luck or weather conditions wouldn't be playing a role tomorrow.
"I don't like the heat but for 14 kilometres it should be no problem. The most important thing is that all riders have the same conditions, that it doesn't start to rain halfway," he said.
Tony Martin starts his time trial at 16:44, with other specialists like Adriano Malori (Movistar) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek) starting later. The home crowd would love to see a home win from Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin). People are walking around town with shirts, donning "I'm a Dumoulist." The Dutchman starts his ride at 16:25.
"Everybody talks about me and Tom but there are more riders to look at, like Cancellara. The last few times he [Dumoulin] came closest. I'm confident I can beat him again," he added.
"Tomorrow is my main objective in this Tour de France. It's a big goal. The team time trial of the ninth stage is my next goal. I'm also here to support the team. Everybody can win a stage."
In the past, the Tour de France often kicked off with a prologue, limited to a maximum of eight kilometres. This time around the race starts with a 13.8km-long time trial with out a long time trial of around 50 kilometres later in the race. Martin liked the Utrecht time trial course, which is not technical nor straight-forward.
"It's something in between. It's a nice course. It's not too technical," Martin said. "There's a few corners where you have to brake. You have to take the corners at the right speed. It's not just about the power but also about the technical parts. I had a lot of chances to see the course and tomorrow [Saturday] I will see it in closed condition. I also came earlier [to Utrecht] to analyse the course. I will know the parcours 100 per cent. The corners will not be the problem."