Spectacular start for 2009 Tour

This Tour's spectacular start will separate the men from the boys. The inaugural time trial of 15 kilometres is already long enough to make the favourites show themselves, especially since a part of the route will lead the riders up the coastal hills and into the hinterland of the glamorous city. It is a demanding, technical route with several particularly steep climbs, including a 10 percent incline.

The descent is slightly technical with a right hand hairpin at the 4km-mark, as well as four tight curves to master just before the riders hit the seafront straight to the finish in the old harbour.

Just like Formula 1 racers, the riders will start their dash at the Formula 1 Grand Prix starting line before entering the Tunnel and launching into the home stretch on the famous route de la Piscine.

Vaughters' views

Not a prologue at all, this 15.5 km hilly and technical effort will take 20 minutes or so to complete. It will give a better indication as to who can compete on GC than a typical prologue and even more than a typical flatter time trial.

This will be a test of skill, climbing ability, time trial prowess, and judgment - all abilities one needs to win the Tour. Who are my favourites? Alberto Contador is who'd I'd pick, but I'm sure a very on form Fabian Cancellara and a very skinny Brad Wiggins will be in the mix. Look carefully at the top 10, and you'll see many a name that you'll be seeing a lot of for the next 3 weeks.

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