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And they're off!

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This helmet isn't going anywhere

This helmet isn't going anywhere (Image credit: James Huang)
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T-Mobile was spotted running a new HED three-spoke wheel

T-Mobile was spotted running a new HED three-spoke wheel (Image credit: James Huang)
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Specialized even developed a proprietary bottle

Specialized even developed a proprietary bottle (Image credit: James Huang)
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Integrated time trial handlebars

Integrated time trial handlebars (Image credit: James Huang)
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Rabobank heads out on a 'team training ride'

Rabobank heads out on a 'team training ride' (Image credit: James Huang)
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A timing chip mounted on each bike

A timing chip mounted on each bike (Image credit: James Huang)
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Cancellara's Cervélo P3 Carbon being prepared the day before the opening prologue.

Cancellara's Cervélo P3 Carbon being prepared the day before the opening prologue. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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FSA's new Neo Pro TT crankset is rightfully emblazoned with the World Champion stripes earned by Fabian Cancellara last year.

FSA's new Neo Pro TT crankset is rightfully emblazoned with the World Champion stripes earned by Fabian Cancellara last year. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The non-driveside crank fully envelopes the bottom bracket cup.

The non-driveside crank fully envelopes the bottom bracket cup. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The driveside of the Neo Pro TT is equally striking with smooth contours and neatly integrated chainrings.

The driveside of the Neo Pro TT is equally striking with smooth contours and neatly integrated chainrings. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The driveside bottom bracket cup is also shrouded by the crankarm.

The driveside bottom bracket cup is also shrouded by the crankarm. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Ceramic bearing-equipped pulleys help keep things rolling with minimal friction.

Ceramic bearing-equipped pulleys help keep things rolling with minimal friction. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Like many riders in the peloton, Cancellara uses a slightly chopped saddle to squeak by the UCI setback requirement.

Like many riders in the peloton, Cancellara uses a slightly chopped saddle to squeak by the UCI setback requirement. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Cancellara is the current time trial world champion and can now add 'two-time Tour de France prologue winner' to his list of palmares.

Cancellara is the current time trial world champion and can now add 'two-time Tour de France prologue winner' to his list of palmares. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Discovery Channel's George Hincapie logged an excellent ride with a third place finish.

Discovery Channel's George Hincapie logged an excellent ride with a third place finish. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Bontrager supplies Hincapie and rest of the team with its carbon fiber integrated TT bar.

Bontrager supplies Hincapie and rest of the team with its carbon fiber integrated TT bar. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Hincapie mounts a third brake lever on the extensions to control his speed without breaking his aero tuck.

Hincapie mounts a third brake lever on the extensions to control his speed without breaking his aero tuck. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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HED's tri-spoke aero wheel continues to see heavy use in the peloton.

HED's tri-spoke aero wheel continues to see heavy use in the peloton. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Smoothly contoured carbon fiber brake levers plug into the end of the Bontrager handlebar.

Smoothly contoured carbon fiber brake levers plug into the end of the Bontrager handlebar. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Time trial helmets offer up plenty of real estate for wild paint jobs.

Time trial helmets offer up plenty of real estate for wild paint jobs. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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This helmet isn't going anywhere as it lays on a couch in the team hotel lobby, but it still looks fast.

This helmet isn't going anywhere as it lays on a couch in the team hotel lobby, but it still looks fast. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Astana mechanics carefully set up the bike of Andrey Kashechkin.

Astana mechanics carefully set up the bike of Andrey Kashechkin. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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FSA isn't the only company to manufacture an aero crankset, although don't expect to be able to buy this one anytime soon.

FSA isn't the only company to manufacture an aero crankset, although don't expect to be able to buy this one anytime soon. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Even the backside of the rings are cleanly profiled for good aero performance.

Even the backside of the rings are cleanly profiled for good aero performance. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The non-driveside arm is nearly as tall as the down tube on the BMC TT01 Time Machine.

The non-driveside arm is nearly as tall as the down tube on the BMC TT01 Time Machine. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Time trial bikes are visually striking but not always the easiest for the mechanics to work on.

Time trial bikes are visually striking but not always the easiest for the mechanics to work on. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Saddle height adjustments on the first-generation BMC TT01 Time Machine was accomplished via a nightmarish array of small set screws.

Saddle height adjustments on the first-generation BMC TT01 Time Machine was accomplished via a nightmarish array of small set screws. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A unique jig helps Astana mechanics achieve a perfect setup.

A unique jig helps Astana mechanics achieve a perfect setup. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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T-Mobile was spotted running a new HED three-spoke wheel with a substantially deeper, and non-structural, section than the original version. Hidden beneath the fairing is likely a shallower section rim that is bound to offer a more compliant ride.

T-Mobile was spotted running a new HED three-spoke wheel with a substantially deeper, and non-structural, section than the original version. Hidden beneath the fairing is likely a shallower section rim that is bound to offer a more compliant ride. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Not all of the T-Mobile riders were using the new wheel, however; many were utilizing the four-spoke PRO front wheel as supplied by team sponsor Shimano.

Not all of the T-Mobile riders were using the new wheel, however; many were utilizing the four-spoke PRO front wheel as supplied by team sponsor Shimano. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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T-Mobile mechanics hand-applied a line of silicone adhesive to fill the wind-churning trough in between the tire and rim.

T-Mobile mechanics hand-applied a line of silicone adhesive to fill the wind-churning trough in between the tire and rim. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Time RXR of Bouygues Telecom.

The Time RXR of Bouygues Telecom. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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This handlebar position was rarely seen just a few years ago, but is now the norm.

This handlebar position was rarely seen just a few years ago, but is now the norm. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Vision makes its headset spacers in the same aero profile as the integrated handlebar stem.

Vision makes its headset spacers in the same aero profile as the integrated handlebar stem. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Pinarello Montello of Alejandro Valverde.

The Pinarello Montello of Alejandro Valverde. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Valverde's custom Selle Italia 'Bala Verde' ('the green bullet') SLR saddle is sadly chopped like on many TT bikes in this year's Tour de France.

Valverde's custom Selle Italia 'Bala Verde' ('the green bullet') SLR saddle is sadly chopped like on many TT bikes in this year's Tour de France. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Integrated time trial handlebars leave little room for mounting accessories so Caisse d'Epargne mechanics have to use a bit of creativity in mounting Valverde's heart rate monitor.

Integrated time trial handlebars leave little room for mounting accessories so Caisse d'Epargne mechanics have to use a bit of creativity in mounting Valverde's heart rate monitor. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Specialized even developed a proprietary bottle to fit perfectly within the triangle of its new Transition.

Specialized even developed a proprietary bottle to fit perfectly within the triangle of its new Transition. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The proprietary cage fits just so.

The proprietary cage fits just so. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A Wilier Cento time trial machine in the process of being built by a Lampre team mechanic.

A Wilier Cento time trial machine in the process of being built by a Lampre team mechanic. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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ITM's carbon fiber base bar is certainly among the curvier examples of the genre.

ITM's carbon fiber base bar is certainly among the curvier examples of the genre. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Specialized only supplies two teams with bikes, but several others with helmets, including this custom-finished model for Lampre.

Specialized only supplies two teams with bikes, but several others with helmets, including this custom-finished model for Lampre. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The matching case for the Specialized TT helmet is akin to a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

The matching case for the Specialized TT helmet is akin to a scene from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The Colnago C50 Chrono of Team Milram.

The Colnago C50 Chrono of Team Milram. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The riders of Euskaltel-Euskadi headed out on the course aboard new Ordu machines from Orbea.

The riders of Euskaltel-Euskadi headed out on the course aboard new Ordu machines from Orbea. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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The new Ordu almost looks more stealth fighter than bicycle.

The new Ordu almost looks more stealth fighter than bicycle. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Trainers were a must-have item on the morning of the prologue as the streets of London were far too crowded for a proper warm-up ride.

Trainers were a must-have item on the morning of the prologue as the streets of London were far too crowded for a proper warm-up ride. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A fleet of trainers await the riders of Astana.

A fleet of trainers await the riders of Astana. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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Rabobank heads out on a 'team training ride' in front of its hotel in London.

Rabobank heads out on a 'team training ride' in front of its hotel in London. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)
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A timing chip mounted on each bike helps ensure the accuracy of the finishing order.

A timing chip mounted on each bike helps ensure the accuracy of the finishing order. (Image credit: James Huang/Cyclingnews.com)

Race Tech: Tour de France, July 8, 2007

Riders will use their dedicated time trial bicycles for what will barely amount to the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the three week-long Tour de France. Nevertheless, sponsors, teams, and mechanics spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, and money into developing the fastest bikes to propel them across the line.

While typically not the lightest bike in the quiver, time trial machines are easily the most visually striking of all the machines we'll see as the peloton winds its way into Paris with CFD-carved lines, NACA-designed tube shapes, and every aero-enhancing tweak and friction-reducing trick that teams can slip through the eyes of the UCI.

This year's opener was won in convincing fashion by Team CSC's Fabian Cancellara, an undeniable favourite but not the home-grown Brit as the host city had hoped; Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) was the highest UK finisher at fourth, 23 seconds back.