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Rainbow fades to yellow in London Town

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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC)

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) (Image credit: AFP)
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The Swiss Champion

The Swiss Champion (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana)

Andreas Klöden (Astana) (Image credit: AFP)
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David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir)

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) (Image credit: AFP)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC)

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) powers away in his new Spanish Champ jersey.

Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) powers away in his new Spanish Champ jersey. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana) took second for the day.

Andreas Klöden (Astana) took second for the day. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel)

Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) powered away to give himself taking the Maillot Jaune in the coming sprint stages.

Daniele Bennati (Lampre-Fondital) powered away to give himself taking the Maillot Jaune in the coming sprint stages. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC)

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) in his TT Worlds jersey.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) in his TT Worlds jersey. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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World TT Champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) on his way to taking the prologue and Maillot Jaune.

World TT Champion Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) on his way to taking the prologue and Maillot Jaune. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) rode well.

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) rode well. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) finished outside of the top ten.

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) finished outside of the top ten. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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A fan watches in London.

A fan watches in London. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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2007 Tour race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC).

2007 Tour race leader Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) puts on the coveted Maillot Jaune.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) puts on the coveted Maillot Jaune. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Podium times for Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). He took the stage, the Maillot Vert and the Maillot Jaune.

Podium times for Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC). He took the stage, the Maillot Vert and the Maillot Jaune. (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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Powerful domestique Steven De Jongh (Quickstep) is by no means a prologue specialist.

Powerful domestique Steven De Jongh (Quickstep) is by no means a prologue specialist. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was uncertain over his Tour participation due to an ongoing problem with a saddle sore.

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) was uncertain over his Tour participation due to an ongoing problem with a saddle sore. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Frederik Willems will play the domestique role for Liquigas.

Frederik Willems will play the domestique role for Liquigas. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) is the newly crowned Russian TT champion.

Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) is the newly crowned Russian TT champion. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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French hope Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom).

French hope Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom). (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was over a minute off the pace.

Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was over a minute off the pace. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Huge crowds gathered in front of Buckingham Palace.

Huge crowds gathered in front of Buckingham Palace. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Jens Voigt (CSC) looked solid and is always a good bet for a stage win.

Jens Voigt (CSC) looked solid and is always a good bet for a stage win. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto) pours on the power.

Johan Van Summeren (Predictor-Lotto) pours on the power. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) sporting his customary grimace.

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) sporting his customary grimace. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Alberto Contador (Discovery) might be an outside hope for the overall.

Alberto Contador (Discovery) might be an outside hope for the overall. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) will form part of Tom Boonen's formidable leadout train.

Gert Steegmans (Quickstep) will form part of Tom Boonen's formidable leadout train. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) will celebrate his 33rd birthday during this Tour.

Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) will celebrate his 33rd birthday during this Tour. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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British rider Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) doesn't race at home too often.

British rider Charles Wegelius (Liquigas) doesn't race at home too often. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) was conserving his legs for tomorrow's sprint into Canterbury.

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) was conserving his legs for tomorrow's sprint into Canterbury. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Belgian TT champ Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto)

Belgian TT champ Leif Hoste (Predictor-Lotto) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Rabobank youngster Thomas Dekker had a storming ride for eighth place.

Rabobank youngster Thomas Dekker had a storming ride for eighth place. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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George Hincapie (Discovery was disappointed with his third place having trained specifically for the prologue.

George Hincapie (Discovery was disappointed with his third place having trained specifically for the prologue. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Andreas Kloden (Astana) showed his form is right on track by finishing second.

Andreas Kloden (Astana) showed his form is right on track by finishing second. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto)

Dario Cioni (Predictor-Lotto) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Paolo Savoldelli forms part of a formidable-looking Astana team.

Paolo Savoldelli forms part of a formidable-looking Astana team. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was feeling the pressure in London today.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) was feeling the pressure in London today. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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The Tour made its first ever visit to London, and the crowds turned out in force.

The Tour made its first ever visit to London, and the crowds turned out in force. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Tom Boonen (Quickstep) wanted to stay within sight of the yellow jersey for the upcoming sprint stages.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep) wanted to stay within sight of the yellow jersey for the upcoming sprint stages. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was there or thereabouts in seventh.

Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) was there or thereabouts in seventh. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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David Millar (Saunier Duval) was sporting some super-fast overshoes but couldn't get close to Cancellara's time.

David Millar (Saunier Duval) was sporting some super-fast overshoes but couldn't get close to Cancellara's time. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Last year's prologue winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)

Last year's prologue winner Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Levi Leipheimer has been billed as Discovery's undisputed leader.

Levi Leipheimer has been billed as Discovery's undisputed leader. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) is riding his last Tour de France.

Axel Merckx (T-Mobile) is riding his last Tour de France. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) was the last man off the ramp.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) was the last man off the ramp. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is looking for a podium finish in this year's Tour.

Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is looking for a podium finish in this year's Tour. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) made the top 20.

Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) made the top 20. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank)

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) had a great ride in his home city but was no match for Cancellara.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) had a great ride in his home city but was no match for Cancellara. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Spanish TT champion José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne)

Spanish TT champion José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery)

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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David Zabriske (CSC) wasn't holding anything back.

David Zabriske (CSC) wasn't holding anything back. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Eparge) looks to have maintained his good form from the Tour de Suisse.

Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Eparge) looks to have maintained his good form from the Tour de Suisse. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) during the prologue in London.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) during the prologue in London. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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The reigning world champion during his effort, the only one that lasted less than nine minutes.

The reigning world champion during his effort, the only one that lasted less than nine minutes. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Cancellara has been dreaming about taking the yellow in London since the route was announced.

Cancellara has been dreaming about taking the yellow in London since the route was announced. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Cancellara in yellow, lion in hand.

Cancellara in yellow, lion in hand. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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The Swiss Champion celebrating even with the jersey not completely zipped up yet.

The Swiss Champion celebrating even with the jersey not completely zipped up yet. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Cancellara is all smiles

Cancellara is all smiles (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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Fabian Cancellara also gets to enjoy the stage win on the podium.

Fabian Cancellara also gets to enjoy the stage win on the podium. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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The prologue stage winner also will get the green jersey.

The prologue stage winner also will get the green jersey. (Image credit: Cyclingnews.com)
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London had plenty of nice scenes to offer, like Tower Bridge

London had plenty of nice scenes to offer, like Tower Bridge (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The crowds in London came out in full force and the police had everything under control.

The crowds in London came out in full force and the police had everything under control. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) on his winning ride through London.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) on his winning ride through London. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cancellara starts his winning ride

Cancellara starts his winning ride (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The world champ near Buckingham palace

The world champ near Buckingham palace (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara (CSC)

Fabian Cancellara (CSC) (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The Swiss rider had his dream come true.

The Swiss rider had his dream come true. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cancellara on the podium in London.

Cancellara on the podium in London. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The yellow jersey fits well.

The yellow jersey fits well. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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A winning smile.

A winning smile. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The podium is clad in yellow.

The podium is clad in yellow. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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David Zabriskie (Team CSC) is the American Champion in this discipline.

David Zabriskie (Team CSC) is the American Champion in this discipline. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Riders warming up on the course.

Riders warming up on the course. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Buckingham Palace was a nice backdrop.

Buckingham Palace was a nice backdrop. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The area attracted many, many spectators.

The area attracted many, many spectators. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The crowds were five deep.

The crowds were five deep. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Police had a watchful eye on everything.

Police had a watchful eye on everything. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) the Spanish Champion heads into a turn.

Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d'Epargne) the Spanish Champion heads into a turn. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Off we go with the first rider, Enrico Degano of Barloworld, the 2007 Tour is underway.

Off we go with the first rider, Enrico Degano of Barloworld, the 2007 Tour is underway. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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German Champion Bert Grabsch

German Champion Bert Grabsch (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Nice scenery all along.

Nice scenery all along. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) heads off.

Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) heads off. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Johan Bruyneel who heads the Discovery Channel team, is all smiles.

Johan Bruyneel who heads the Discovery Channel team, is all smiles. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) takes the start of the race he hopes to win in three weeks.

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) takes the start of the race he hopes to win in three weeks. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) concentrating before the start.

Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) concentrating before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) adjusts his helmet before the start.

Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) adjusts his helmet before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) enjoyed racing at home.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) enjoyed racing at home. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) concentrated before the start.

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) concentrated before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) stretches before the start.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) stretches before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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And this is the face of Stefan Schumacher.

And this is the face of Stefan Schumacher. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Leipheimer heads off into the 2007 Tour.

Leipheimer heads off into the 2007 Tour. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) right before the start.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) right before the start. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara about to start his winning ride.

Fabian Cancellara about to start his winning ride. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Pereiro starts this year's Tour without knowing how he had done the year before.

Oscar Pereiro starts this year's Tour without knowing how he had done the year before. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cancellara kisses the yellow jersey.

Cancellara kisses the yellow jersey. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Pererio checks out the route

Oscar Pererio checks out the route (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Barloworld takes a moment to enjoy the spectacular location

Barloworld takes a moment to enjoy the spectacular location (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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David Millar tests lines through the corner

David Millar tests lines through the corner (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Stuey O'Grady was the first big name of the day to come through

Stuey O'Grady was the first big name of the day to come through (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Popo (Yaroslav Popovych) powers through

Popo (Yaroslav Popovych) powers through (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Robbie McEwan is caught in the flashlight

Robbie McEwan is caught in the flashlight (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom)

Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Fabian Wegmann shows the strain

Fabian Wegmann shows the strain (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Michael Boogerd (Rabobank)

Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Jens Voigt almost makes it look easy

Jens Voigt almost makes it look easy (Image credit: David Reinhardt)
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Andreas Klöden (Astana) showed he is in good form and only lost out to Mr. Chrono.

Andreas Klöden (Astana) showed he is in good form and only lost out to Mr. Chrono. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) rode a brilliant TT to get third on the day.

George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) rode a brilliant TT to get third on the day. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) could start Le Tour on home soil and is now looking for sprint finishes.

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) could start Le Tour on home soil and is now looking for sprint finishes. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) said the day was "magic" and reckons he can try to win other stages.

David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir) said the day was "magic" and reckons he can try to win other stages. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) tried hard to stay close to yellow, but with 46 seconds behind it'll be hard to get enough time bonsues.

Tom Boonen (Quickstep-Innergetic) tried hard to stay close to yellow, but with 46 seconds behind it'll be hard to get enough time bonsues. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) enjoyed the day but could not fulfill the dream of winning the prologue.

Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) enjoyed the day but could not fulfill the dream of winning the prologue. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) had a good day and finished in the top 10

Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) had a good day and finished in the top 10 (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) accomplished his mission for the year.

Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) accomplished his mission for the year. (Image credit: John Pierce/Photosport International)
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The Devil entertains the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace, London.

The Devil entertains the crowd in front of Buckingham Palace, London. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) excites the massive crowd as he passes Buckingham Palace

Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) excites the massive crowd as he passes Buckingham Palace (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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Welshman Geraint Thomas looks comfortable in his 1st Tour de France.

Welshman Geraint Thomas looks comfortable in his 1st Tour de France. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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David Millar lays down the power as he attempts to secure the yellow jersey on the London stage.

David Millar lays down the power as he attempts to secure the yellow jersey on the London stage. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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Londoner Bradley Wiggins received huge applause from his home crowd.

Londoner Bradley Wiggins received huge applause from his home crowd. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) adopts a tucked-in ski position to keep his speed high in the London prologue.

Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) adopts a tucked-in ski position to keep his speed high in the London prologue. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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World Champion Cancellara takes control in London, and puts his rivals in the shade.

World Champion Cancellara takes control in London, and puts his rivals in the shade. (Image credit: Andrew Kennedy)
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Robbie McEwen looking focused on the job at hand

Robbie McEwen looking focused on the job at hand (Image credit: Rick Wilson)
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Tom Boonen stomping around the prologue

Tom Boonen stomping around the prologue (Image credit: Rick Wilson)
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The low position of Boonen

The low position of Boonen (Image credit: Rick Wilson)
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Brad Wiggins was one of the favourites but only managed 4th

Brad Wiggins was one of the favourites but only managed 4th (Image credit: Rick Wilson)

World Champion Cancellara conquers Maillot Jaune

Two years after the tragic terrorist events of July 7, 2005 London welcomed the Tour de France to England for Le Grand Départ in Angleterre. On a simply super summer Saturday, Swingin' London was cycle city UK as over one million spectators lined the 7.9-kilometre course through central London for the best attended and most festive prologue ever in the history of the Tour de France. As Big Ben rang out at 1500 Italian Enrico Degano was first off on a spectacular course that started in Whitehall, past the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace then through the green heart of London via Green Park, Hyde Park, along the Serpentine where the stately swans swam unperturbed as the cyclists sped by at 50 kilometres per hour. Then it was back for home through Green Park, over the gentle rise of Constitution Hill and in with a run along The Mall.

Three years ago in Liège, Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara shocked defending Tour champion Lance Armstrong by winning the Tour prologue by two hundredths of a second, and today, resplendent in the rainbow jersey of World Time Trial Champion, he produced a powerful performance worthy of his nickname "Raging Bull." The CSC man pounded through the intermediate time check on South Carriage Drive fastest and consecrated his effort with a huge final kilometre to ride a 8'50"740, the only rider under the nine minute mark to take the first Maillot Jaune of the 2007 Tour de France.

Cancellara explained post-race that "Today is the second prologue win for me at the Tour; the last time I won in Liège and beat Lance and today it was great to win here in London as a race favourite. In Liège, no one really talked about me as a winner but here it was different and I had a lot more pressure because I am World Champion. I showed already that I was in good condition in the Tour de Suisse. And I also think that it's a great thing for cycling that the Tour starts in London with such great crowds."

Although CSC team boss Bjarne Riis was declared persona non grata by Le Tour, the enigmatic Dane was out and about anyway today in London as a private citizen. Cancellara commented that "Without Bjarne, it's different on the team, but we have good directeurs and we are all going the same way on this team. It's the number one team in the world. Yes, it's really hard that he's not with us but we are old enough to handle this and are professional bike riders, after all. It's important for the team and the sponsors to show what we can do and here. CSC has a headquarters in London and we've showed that the team is ready for the Tour."

Cancellara continued his positive message in London and explained, "I want to set an example for the other riders, for the young riders and for the future by my performance here. I have always given the maximum to my sport and I think that when you give it your all and work hard it can pay off." But the bemused Maillot Jaune then explained why he had a five o'clock shadow by saying "I have a message for British Airways," joked Cancellara. "I haven't shaved because I don't have anything to shave with! I'm still waiting for my suitcase that hasn't showed up yet so I hope I get it back soon!"

Runner-up today was one of Astana's overall Tour de France favourites Andreas Klöden. The slim German has deceptive power in his elegant style, resulting in a superb ride, second, a long 13" adrift from Cancellara but the best of all the 2007 Tour's GC contenders. "Things went pretty much the way I had hoped. I am very happy with my performance and I am also happy I put time into my main GC competitors," said Klöden after his run. Quite clearly in superb form, but still a further 10" behind Klöden in third place was American George Hincapie of Discovery Channel.

Likely riding his final Tour for Discovery before he goes to T-Mobile in 2008, the US Road Race Champion didn't disappoint. But Hincapie himself wasn't so pleased with his ride in London. "Yeah, I'm disappointed," Big George told Cyclingnews. "I wanted to win today. I worked very hard to try to win today and so third place is not a good thing. During the race, I went very hard. I pushed it all the way. He [Klöden] must have really flown."

Hincapie reflected, "I got second last year so it was a disappointment not to win today. I gave it my all. I felt like I left a little bit for the end, but in the last kilometre I was really on the limit." But Hincapie had shown he is back and bad; a real strongman for the Tour de France in 2007. "Yes, the prologue was one of my objectives. I am in great shape, I am fresh and I reckon I will be lucky one of these days in the Tour."

It was close but no cigar for Londoner Brad Wiggins, who finished just behind Hincapie in fourth. The World Individual pursuit champion, just didn't fire on all cylinders in his hometown today. Fifth place went to another Discovery Channel rider, Russian Vladimir Gusev, who came home 25" behind the Maillot Jaune and gave the Disco boys two riders in the top 10. Gusev was quick enough to be first in the competition for the Maillot Blanc of best young rider. Just behind Gusev in sixth was another talented Russian, Caisse d'Epargne's Vladimir Karpets. Based on his excellent prologue ride today, the long, lean Karpets, recent winner of the Tour de Suisse, is now a dark horse overall contender.

Astana's Alexander Vinokourov ended up seventh with a discreet ride today, 30 seconds behind Cancellara and just ahead of Rabobank's young talent Thomas Dekker. As for the best of the rest, US Time Trial Champion Dave Zabriskie was just outside the top 10 in 11th, a decent performance that was somewhat slower than expected from the Z-man. And despite waves of adulation from the gathered masses, in London, it wasn't Millar time today as Saunier Duval's pre-race favourite David Millar could only manage 13th. Millar told French TV post-stage that "I tried to win but I didn't have the form. I am satisfied with the way things went. It was a magic day anyway and it's far from finished for me since I want to win a stage at the Tour. Today is so special with all the English people who came out to see the Tour."

Discovery Channel's Alberto Contador was the first pure climber in today's totally flat prologue and the Tour sophomore finished an excellent 15th place today, just ahead of Astana's dangerous Kazakh Kashechkin. While Contador's Discovery team leader passed the finish line with a chagrined look and a sub-par performance in 26th place, 40" behind Cancellara and already 27" behind rival Klöden in the race for the Tour de France title.

Another Tour contender who may in fact be a pretender is Caisse d'Epargne's Alejandro Valverde, who had a poor ride today to finish 32nd and lost a half-minute to rival Klöden. Today's La Gazzetta dello Sport repeated the possible Operación Puerto evidence relating to the Spaniard whose team doctor during his years at Kelme was Eufemiano Fuentes, the same doctor at the heart of the doping affair. Page three of the investigation documents published on June 27, 2006 referenced blood bags with a "VALV. (PITI)" code name. Further, Valverde was linked with the "18" that was used in the Puerto shelving documents issued by Spanish judge Antonio Serrano March 8 of this year, however, the Spanish cycling federation has always denied that the code number related to the cyclist.

Needless to say, the 2006 ProTour winner showed he was clearly feeling the pressure today in London. Post-race Valverde was not too worried, "I felt good but it was really a course for the specialist but I am pleased with my performance."

How it unfolded

After torrential rains and disastrous floods put a furrow in the brow of organisers and racers alike in the weeks before the start, the magic that is the Tour de France shined on the prologue in London and fans and riders were treated to crystal clear blue skies and mild temperatures for the 7.9-kilometre route through central London.

All 189 riders took the trip down the start ramp and sped past Buckingham Palace to the delight of massive crowds stacked five deep along the roads of London. Even Rabobank's Oscar Freire soldiered through a painful cyst to take on the prologue.

Enrico Degano was the first rider to set out onto the sometimes bumpy, sometimes technical parcours, but Crédit Agricole's William Bonnet, the young French rider who took second to prologue favourite Bradley Wiggins, set the most durable early fast time with a 9'26. It wasn't until Euskaltel-Euskadi rider Mikel Astarloza rode two seconds faster that Bonnet could step down from the 'hot seat.'

CSC's Paris-Roubaix champion Stuart O'Grady was setting the new fast time at the intermediate sprint, but he took one of the last turns too hot and clipped a barricade. The contact set him off course into another of the dividers, and he tumbled dramatically to the pavement. Not seriously injured, he climbed back onto his machine and finished the race with his number flapping in the wind.

After 25 minutes atop the leader board, Astarloza was unseated by the American time trial champion David Zabriskie, but Dave Z's lead ended before he could climb off his bike when Russian Vladimir Karpets smashed his time by six seconds with a 9'16".

Karpets enjoyed a cool half-hour on the hot seat before another Russian Vladimir, Discovery Channel's Vladimir Gusev, man-handled his time trial bike to a time less than one second faster than Karpets.

As GC prospects Alejandro Valverde and Fränk Schleck gingerly worked his way to the finish to avoid any accidents on the tight turns, and the sprinters muscled their way through the course in an attempt to stay within time-bonus distance of a yellow jersey. Gusev enjoyed his time on top but he could only sit back and watch in dismay as Astana's Andreas Klöden rocked the house a full 13 seconds faster in 9'03.

Hometown heroes Bradley Wiggins and David Millar couldn't touch Klöden's time, much to the disappointment of the British crowds. Wiggins came within ten seconds, but was pushed down a rung on the board by Discovery's George Hincapie by a fraction of a second.

After Levi Leipheimer, Stefan Schumacher and Cadel Evans failed to unseat the German's seemingly unreachable time, CSC's World TT champion Fabian Cancellara was on the course tackling every turn with perfect lines and making his rainbow jerseys a blur to the spectators. He demolished the intermediate time check a full seven seconds faster than Klöden, and continued his domination to the line taking 13 seconds out of the Astana rider to win his second career Tour prologue (first in 2004).

Stage 1 - Sunday, July 8: London - Canterbury, 203km

After a roll-out through London across the Greenwich Meridien where stage one officially starts, the peloton heads east along the Thames, then south across the North Downs and eventually back east across Kent to the finish within sight of the famous cathedral of Canterbury.

A rolling course that will favour an early break that will then be pulled back before the finale, where sprinters like Petacchi, McEwen, Freire, and Boonen will be looking for the first victory.

Climbs: Km 94.5: Côte de Southborough: 2.3 km climb @ 4.1% avg. grade / 4th Cat. Km 121: Côte de Goudhurst: 1.6 km climb @ 5.3% avg. grade / 4th Cat. Km 183: Côte de Farthing Common: 1.1 km climb @ 6.1% avg. grade / 4th Cat.

Sprints: Km 46: Gillingham Km 76: Teston Km 140: Tenterden

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