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The Tour is starting! The riders take on the prologue through the streets and across the waters of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Will Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank once again be the fastest on this short course, or will another man pull on the 2010 Tour's first yellow jersey this evening?
Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews' coverage of the 2010 Tour de France! We will kick things off in a few minutes with the prologue – 8.9km through Rotterdam.
This is the first prologue in a while. The last one was held in 2007, in London. That one was won by, who else, Fabian Cancellara.
The first rider, Iban Mayoz of Footon-Servetto, leaves the starting ramp at 16:15. The last rider to go is defending champion Alberto Contador, scheduled for 19:32. All riders will go at one-minute intervals.
Today's course starts on the Zuidplein and heads north, crossing the Maas River on the Erasmus Bridge. Back on land, they bear right and ride along the water before making another right-hand turn and crossing the river again on the Willems Bridge to an island in the city. Then it is over the Konnigene (Queen's) Bridge before heading back down, parallel to the out-bound route, to the finish line.
Who is the favourite today? Ok, that was a stupid question. Let's rephrase it: who besides Cancellara might have a change today? Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia, for one. He is gambling on better weather with an early start time, 16:25.
It is now time for Mayoz to open the 2010 Tour de France! We wish all the riders a fair and safe journey.
There has been some playing around the starting times. with some top riders going early in the stage. One of those in HTC-Columbia's Tony Martin, a favourite today for a top finish. He takes off at 16:25.
Martin says he chose the early start time for two reasons. First of all, the weather ought to be better. Secondly, he will be back at the team hotel in time to see the end of the Germany-Argentina World Cup game.
What does Sky boss Dave Brailsford have to say about monkeying with the start times? “It's a bit like cricket and it's one of those things and hard to predict,” he told Cyclingnews' Dan Benson. “Should we wait till later or go now when the air is hotter and you'll go faster - we know that from the track. So why not take a risk?”
Tony Martin is now underway! He is the first possible contender to take to the road today.
We are having another contest with great prizes!
For those of you playing our Easton-Cyclingnews Wheelset a Day Giveaway during the Tour de France, here is your trivia question for the day: George Hincapie is starting his 15th Tour de France in 2010. Who has the most Tour starts in history?
Enter your answer in our contest page here.
Today's prize is an Easton EC90 TT wheelset.
Click here for information about the prize.
You can read more about the contest here.
Mayoz is, unsurprisingly, the first rider in to the finish, with a time of 11:10. Martin Tjallingii of Rabobank has already topped that with a time of 10:49.
Martin has the best intermediate time of 4:37.
Edvald Boasson Hagen is the next to go. The young Sky rider is also a good bet to do well in this Tour.
Cyclingnews' Daniel Benson talked to Chris Boardman today. “It's a courageous thing to do picking a early start time and the UCI may look at that in the future as to whether riders should be able to do that. In my day you couldn't. Its not good for tv,” he said.
”I'm looking forward to seeing Geraint Thomas. He's just at the start of his road career but he has huge potential.”
Today's winner? “Tony Martin should be watched and Cancellara is the favourite especially on this course. “
There are a number of big names underway right now, like Christian Vande Velde of Garmin-Transitions and Matti Breschel of Saxo Bank.
Martin moves into the lead with a time of 10:10. That makes him 25 seconds faster than second-place Brent Bookwalter of BMC.
Jeremy Hunt of Cervelo is the next over the line, well back at 11:13.
Here's a weather report for you: it rained earlier, but has now stopped. Let's hope it stays that way! Unfortunately it is now warm and quite humid.
Any riders going “vroom, vroom” out there today? We certainly hope not! But just in case, the UCI will be scanning a handful of bikes after this – and ever stage – just to make sure no one has a little motor built in.
Martin is still holding on to his lead. Vande Velde finished 50 seconds down, and Boasson Hagen was 22 seconds back.
Brent Bookwalter of BMC Racing Team was a surprise second at the Giro prologue this spring. Will he do it again? "I have no idea to be honest," he told Cyclingnews. Well, we know now that he couldn't repeat his success.
Bradley Wiggins is now on the course. He too is a top pick for today. Will he be the one to break Martin's time?
Remember, Wiggins won the prologue in the Giro this year.
Will there be doping tests at this year's Tour? You betcha! 540 in all. Which puts them above the Giro d'Italia, which had 520 doping tests.
Bert Grabsch of HTC-Columbia is a time trial specialist and even former World Champion, but these short prologues are just not his thing. He finished 40 seconds behind teammate Martin.
Well, well, it looks like Wiggins won't be slipping into something yellow this evening. He is already 21 seconds down at the intermediate time check.
Garmin-Slipstream's David Zabriskie is 15 seconds at the intermediate time check.
Caisse d'Epargne is bringing the Spanish national champions to the Tour. Luis Leon Sanchez will be in the national colours today for the time trial, while Jose Ivan Gutierrez will wear them in the road stages. You can read more about it here.
Unfortunately we hear that it is raining again.
Wiggins' gamble of an early starting time didn't pay off. He finished 46 seconds slower than Martin, currently putting him in 14th place.
It is indeed raining, and supposed to keep on doing so.
Cervelo TestTeam has come into the race with only eight riders. One rider didn't make it to the start at all today. Cervelo pulled Xavier Florencio yesterday, after he used a haemorrhoid product with a banned ingredient. Here is what Cervelo had to say, and Florencio's story.
The team asked to be allowed to replace him, but the request was refused.
Thomas Lofkvist of Sky is the next to go, and he will be immediately followed by Astana's Levi Leipheimer.
Hedwig Kröner is also in Rotterdam for Cyclingnews, and says the weather is terrible. "It's raining, it's really awful. Sometimes the rain is very hard, sometimes less so.
"When Martin got through it was barely raining, just a few drops. But just a few minutes ago (Zabriskie, Wiggins) it was raining a lot."
It's a tough one today for the German riders – after all, the Tour de France is not the only major sporting event going on right now! Even as we speak (or write?), Germany is fighting against Argentina in the World Cup.
Saxo Bank's Jens Voigt will keep an eye on the game, except for those 10 minutes or so he is out on his bike. “Of course we all follow the World Cup, after all we are sports fans. But when you are on the starting ramp, you forget everything else.”
Milram's Linus Gerdemann has asked to be kept informed of how the game is going up until a few minutes before he ride. He is pessimistic though, seeing a win for Argentina.
(And, yes, we do know the score, and no, we won't tell you. But another goal was just scored!)
Alexandre Vinokouorv is celebrating his return to the Tour de France. He is on the course now.
A super time for Tyler Farrar! The Garmin-Transitions sprinter has finished in second place, only 18 seconds slower than Martin.
Dan Benson confirms the bad weather. The wind has picked up, he says. The rain is off and on, but when it is on, it is pretty heavy.
Leipheimer has finished in the same time as Farrar -- two speedy Americans!
The weather today is pretty much luck of the draw. Right now it is not bad, so we are getting some good times again.
A good ride for Vinokourov. He finishes seventh, 28 seconds down.
Let's take a look back at our top 10 of last year's Tour:
1.Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana 85:48:35
2.Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:04:11
3.Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana 0:05:24
4.Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream 0:06:01
5.Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank 0:06:04
6.Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana 0:06:42
7.Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas 0:07:35
8.Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream 0:12:04
9.Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas 0:14:16
10.Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des Jeux 0:14:25
Hedwig Kröner just reported that “It has stopped raining at the moment, but is still pretty gray. It could start again any time. Some riders will benefit from no rain, but the course is quite wet, so they will all have to be careful on the corners.“
Manuel Cardoso must have crashed on those wet roads. Hedwig Kröner told us that she just saw him cross the finish line and that he was bleeding heavily from a head injury. He was, of course, conscious and able to ride, but injured. He is getting medical attention.
And Cardoso's time is 16:20. We will have to see what the time limit is for this stage.
Kröner talked to Sylvain Chavanel of QuickStep. Is the course dangerous? “Dangerous? Yes, of course it is dangerous. But it will be dangerous for everybody. It doesn't make any differnce it it rains when you are riding or not, since the road is wet.”
He sees it as a “typical Cancellara course. But the GC riders ought to do well, too.”
Geraint Thomas of Sky has put in a strong first half of the prologue. At the intermediate time he is third, only nine seconds down.
Good news and bad news: The good is that Thomas has moved into second place overall, finishing 13 seconds slower than Martin.
The bad news is that Mathias Frank of BMC has finished in a slow time, crossing the line with blood pouring out of his mouth.
The next rider scheduled to go is Cervelo's Xavier Florencio -- but we know he's not there!
Robbie McEwen is underway on the wet roads now, as is Milram's Gerald Ciolek.
There's a good fan turn out today, despite the weather.
Ciolek is 22nd at the finish -- but faster than Brad Wiggins!
We see Simon Garrans of Sky now, and the next to go is Christopher Horner of RadioShack, He will be directly followed by the ever-popular Jens Voigt.
NOt only are the roads quite wet, they have lots of those white stripes and markings on them. Which are especially nasty when they are wet...
We have a birthday boy in the peloton! Nicolas Roche of AG2R turns 26 today.
McEwen makes his way to the finish line. He's no danger to the leader!
Robbie Hunter is now 10th at the finish, and Gerrans 22nd.
BMC reports that Frank crashed in a curve and needs stitches for a facial cut.
Voigt crosses the finish line 49 seconds slower than Martin.
Alessandro Ballan of BMC is underway. The road is very wet.
Dan Benson had a word with leader Tony Martin. “Right now I'm first, so I'm happy. My goal was the podium. I haven't done my best time trial, to be honest. I rode between dry and wet,” he said “I rode safe and lost one or two seconds.”
Bernhard Eisel is underway, and it is raining again.
Martin covered the course at an average speed of 52.5km/h.
Andreas Klöden of RadioShack is the next to take to the wet roads. He could well bring in a top time today.
We gather that Zabriskie is one of those chosen to have his bike scanned. He has a red band on it, and said the bike “had to go to the hospital.”
Klöden takes a right hand turn very carefully.
Lars Boom is the next to go. He would very much like to win today, in his homeland.
Bradley Wiggins has talked about his ride on British television. He was one of the first riders to get caught in the rain and set a time of 10:46, a significant 46 seconds slower than Tony Martin (HTC-Columbia).
After his fourth place overall in 2009, Wiggins is again targeting the overall classification and so avoided taking any risks in the rain.
"I was happy with how I felt physically and the numbers I put out but I didn't want chance anything. I said the prologue wasn't the be all and end of for me. I'm just happy I got round in one piece. It was wet but wet for most people too," he told ITV television.
"I felt fine on a straight line but I couldn't push it to the limit on the corners because I couldn't take the risk of losing three or four minutes. It was more about getting dialing into the effort."
KLöden was fifth at the intermediate time check, 11 seconds down.
It doesn't seem to be raining right now, but the roads are very wet.
Looks like a pretty good time for Klöden. He is 8th at the finish.
Lance Armstrong is warming up. Where will he finish today?
Mark Cavendish of HTC-Columbia takes off.
The Manx man will only look to get to the finish line in the time limit and without crashing. HIs stages will come later.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has also talked about his ride to ITV television in the UK. He is still second fastest, 13 seconds slower than Tony Martin, with a time of 10:23 for the 8.9km course.
"I'm happy with how it went. We'll see where it leaves me," he said.
"It's nice to do a good ride, especially in a race like this. Brad took it easier than me on the corners because he doesn't want to lose a minute in crash instead of just 20 seconds."
Thomas won the British national championship last Sunday and will make his debut in the new red, white and blue jersey on Sunday's first road race stage. He made it clear he will be riding for Wiggins for the rest of the Tour.
"Now it all switches for me, to be here for Brad and doing what the team wants me to do. I'm here for him because he's got a great chance of doing something overall," he said.
"My new jersey is real nice. I've got a nice union jack on my helmet too. It's pimp but it's old school because I've got black shorts to go with it. I wanted to keep a classical look."
Boom didn't do as well as he would have liked. He is 34 seconds down, in 18th place.
David Millar of Garmin-Transitions is on the road now.
A prologue is "very short but a very vicious effort," according to Jens Voigt.
The whole route today is lined with fans, even along the bridges.
Fränk Schleck is on the course!
Cavendish crosses the finish line with a time of 11:10, putting him in 83rd place.
Millar is going strong -- he is only three seconds down at the intermediate time check.
Robert Gesink is the next to go. He has problems in Grand Tours. Let's hope he rides this one to the end, and doesn't crash out again.
Millar gives his all, but it is not enough. He is second at the end, in a time of 10:20, ten seconds down.
Gesink is up out of the saddle as he "climbs" up the Erasmus Bridge.
The younger Schleck is still warming up.
Fränk Schleck nears the finish line. His time of 10:57 puts him in 51st place.
Carlos Sastre will be taking off any minute now. How will he do in this Grand Tour? Has he really recovered fully from his back injury?
Sean Weide, BMC press spokesman, updates us on Mathias Frank. “The team's doctor is accompanying him to the local hospital for further examination. Frank was complaining of pain in his wrist.”
Hedwig Kröner tells us that the rain has stopped and the conditions are getting better.
Millar told her that he felt good and it was fast. “It wasn't slippery actually, and the road is drying.”
Niki Terpstra of Milram has come in in 10th place.
Andy Schleck is on the course now. He is riding carefully, not wanting to take any risks at this early point in the race.
Sastre was not going for the win today, either. He finishes 45 seconds down.
We are on the "final countdown" now -- the last rider from each team. WE just saw Denis Menchov of Rabobank, with Samuel Sanchez of Euskalel the next one.
Nocentini, who last year wore the yellow jersey, finishes with a time of 11:27.
Janez Brajkovik was 13th at the intermediate check and moves up to ninth at the finish.
David Millar was satisfied, despite finishing ten seconds behind Tony Martin.
"I felt good. It was a very nice course. Beautiful and not at all technical," he told ITV television. "Even with wet roads you could go fast. I enjoyed it. It was only a little wet for the early guys which is sometimes worse but I think everyone has had the same conditions."
Andy Schleck comes into the finish, in his red-white and blue national champions jersey, nearly a minuted down.
Three-time World time trial champion Mick Rogers of HTC-Columbia has taken to the course.
World champion -- road, not time trial -- Cadel Evans is also underway.
Thor Hushovd is off and going.
Samu Sanchez is in with a time of 10:56.
Evans as 13 seconds down at the intermediate time check, and Rogers 12 seconds down.
Ivan Basso takes off. Only four more riders to go.
LInus Gerdeman crosses the line in a time of 10:35, putting him in seventh place.
Armstrong is underway.
Cancellara is next to go, followed by the last starter, Contador.
Evans finishes 30 seconds down.
A good time for Rogers, but no threat to his teammate. He is 11th, 25 seconds back.
Contador takes off -- they are all on the road now!
Will one of these final riders finally top Martin's time?
Is Cancellara supersitious? Apparently so. He has number 13, and is wearing it upside down.
Contador looks to be going very fast!
Armstrong up out of the saddle. He was third at the intermediate time check, five seconds down.
Cancellara puts in a new best time at the intermediate time check, six seconds faster than Martin.
Contador was 12 seconds down at the time check, putting him one second behind Armstrong.
Basso nears the finish line.
Basso is 44 seconds down at the finish.
The final km for Armstrong.
An excellent time for Armstong, only 12 seconds behind MArtin and at the moment in 3d place.
Was it ever a real question? Cancellara finishes in a time of 10:00:4, ten seconds faster than Martin.
Contador is still on the road.
A good itme for him too, though. 10:27, putting him in sixth place.
Tony Martn had a long time serving as virtual leader, only to have it snatched away at the last second by Cancellara.
But at least Martin can take satisfaction in wearing the white jersey for best young rider.
That's it for today! Thanks for reading along and join us again tomorrow, as we tackle Stage One!