Paolo Savoldelli, resplendent in his Astana turquoise, repeated his win of last year in the prologue of the Tour de Romandie, taking only 4'35 to tame the technically-demanding, undulating 3.5 km course through the old town of Fribourg, Switzerland.
Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger finished second in the prologue, five seconds down, and Predictor-Lotto's Chris Horner took third, seven seconds down.
"I didn't come here to win, but to test and do the best I could," Savoldelli said. "You needed very good legs to win today and to negotiate the last kilometre well." He will look to hold on to the leader's jersey, saying, "If the race allows it, we will hold on to it, because the Astana team is capable of controlling the race."
He indicated, however, that if he can't hold on to the jersey, perhaps a team-mate could wear it. "I may try something with Kashechkin. The Astana team is a good team with ambitions." The young Kaszahki finished fourth, only nine seconds behind his captain.
How it unfolded
There were only 166 riders at the start, as both Milram and Discovery Channel started with only seven riders. Those 166 took to the twisty, turny course through the narrow streets of Fribourg. The drought in Europe had left a lot of dust on the streets, and when a light rain started, the wet dust was slippery, so the difficult course became dangerous.
Astana's Andrey Mizourov set the first accent for his team by establishing a time of 4'45, which stayed the best for a long time. CSC's time trial whiz Dave Zabriskie started simultaneously with the rain, so he held himself back to keep from crashing.
Predictor-Lotto's Chris Horner took over the lead with a time of 4'42, but was followed shortly by Savoldelli, who jumped into the lead. By that time, the rain had stopped and surface conditions were better.
Kreuziger, the 2005 Junior World Champion, got off to a wobbly start, as he had gear problems which cost him a few seconds. The 20-year-old still managed an outstanding time to finish second. The surprise finisher of the day was Sandy Casar, of Francaise de Jeux, who placed fifth.
Many favourite finished fairly far down in the standings. Defending overall champion Cadel Evans was 16th, 14 seconds down, CSC's Carlos Sastre finished 20 seconds down in 59th, and two-time World time trial champion Michael Rogers was 62nd, also 20 seconds down. And last year's Tour de France surprise Oscar Pereiro, who won the prologue here two years ago, never got on pace and ended up 27th.
David Millar, of Saunier Duval, had been considered a favourite to win the prologue, but finished down in 19th place, 15 seconds behind the winner, although the rain had stopped by the time he rode. "I didn't do so bad, considering the conditions, but I'm in a training phase right now. My goal is the Tour de France."
Wednesday's stage one goes 157 km from Granges-Paccot - La Chaux-de-Fonds, an up-and-down course featuring two each Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 climbs and a total of 2320 climbing meters.