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Cancellara motors in Monaco parade

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Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) heads to victory

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) heads to victory (Image credit: AFP Photo)
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2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) prepares to start his time trial.

2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) prepares to start his time trial. (Image credit: AFP)
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Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) finished the opening time trial in third, 19 seconds behind Cancellara.

Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) finished the opening time trial in third, 19 seconds behind Cancellara. (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) powers to the finish line.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) powers to the finish line. (Image credit: AFP)
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Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) in the maillot jaune.

Swiss Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) in the maillot jaune. (Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) ready to start ttt stage one.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) ready to start ttt stage one. (Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) back after four years at the ttt.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) back after four years at the ttt. (Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) in Saturday's stage of the ttt.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) in Saturday's stage of the ttt. (Image credit: AFP)
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USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) rides the 15.5km time trial in mmm.

USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) rides the 15.5km time trial in mmm. (Image credit: AFP)
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USA's Levi Leipheimer (Astana)

USA's Levi Leipheimer (Astana) (Image credit: AFP)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) readies for stage one of the ttt.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) readies for stage one of the ttt. (Image credit: AFP)
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USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) starts stage one of the ttt in mmm.

USA's Lance Armstrong (Astana) starts stage one of the ttt in mmm. (Image credit: AFP)
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German Andreas Klöden (Astana)

German Andreas Klöden (Astana) (Image credit: AFP)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) finshes seventh for hte day.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) finshes seventh for hte day. (Image credit: AFP)
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Defedning ttt champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam)

Defedning ttt champion Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) (Image credit: AFP)
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Spaniard Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) at the start.

Spaniard Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam) at the start. (Image credit: AFP)
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Alberto Contador (Astana)

Alberto Contador (Astana) (Image credit: AFP)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) rode to a second for the day in ttt stage one.

Alberto Contador (Astana) rode to a second for the day in ttt stage one. (Image credit: AFP)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) en route to victory in the Tour's opening time trial.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) en route to victory in the Tour's opening time trial. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) opens the defense of his 2008 Tour title.

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) opens the defense of his 2008 Tour title. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) en route to a 17th place finish.

Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream) en route to a 17th place finish. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) shifts gears.

Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) shifts gears. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Vladimir Karpets (Team Katusha) time trials to a 22nd place finish.

Vladimir Karpets (Team Katusha) time trials to a 22nd place finish. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finished in 53rd place, 1:31 behind Cancellara.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finished in 53rd place, 1:31 behind Cancellara. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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American time trial Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) finished stage one in 13th place.

American time trial Dave Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream) finished stage one in 13th place. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) is back at the Tour de France.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) is back at the Tour de France. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Arnaud Coyot (Caisse d'Epargne) negotiates the technical opening time trial.

Arnaud Coyot (Caisse d'Epargne) negotiates the technical opening time trial. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) time trials in Monaco.

Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) time trials in Monaco. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara, in his Swiss national road champion jersey, celebrates his stage win on the podium.

Fabian Cancellara, in his Swiss national road champion jersey, celebrates his stage win on the podium. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara is congratulated by Prince Albert of Monaco.

Fabian Cancellara is congratulated by Prince Albert of Monaco. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) in the leader's yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) in the leader's yellow jersey. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) starts the opening 15.5km time trial.

Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream) starts the opening 15.5km time trial. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) leaves the start house.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) leaves the start house. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) begins his 2009 Tour de France.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) begins his 2009 Tour de France. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Spanish time trial champion Alberto Contador (Astana) rolls out of the start house.

Spanish time trial champion Alberto Contador (Astana) rolls out of the start house. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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2008 Tour champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) starts the stage one time trial in Monaco.

2008 Tour champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) starts the stage one time trial in Monaco. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) prepares to start his time trial.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) prepares to start his time trial. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Bert Grabsch (Team Columbia-HTC), the current time trial world champion, leaves the start house.

Bert Grabsch (Team Columbia-HTC), the current time trial world champion, leaves the start house. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) on the podium for leading the mountains classification.

Alberto Contador (Astana) on the podium for leading the mountains classification. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) earned the Tour's first young rider's jersey.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) earned the Tour's first young rider's jersey. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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2008 green jersey winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) time trials in Monaco.

2008 green jersey winner Oscar Freire (Rabobank) time trials in Monaco. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) in action in the Tour's opening stage.

Mark Cavendish (Team Columbia-HTC) in action in the Tour's opening stage. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Belgian time trial champion Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) finished in 124th place.

Belgian time trial champion Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) finished in 124th place. (Image credit: Sirotti)
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World time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Team Columbia-HTC) crossed the finish line.

World time trial champion Bert Grabsch (Team Columbia-HTC) crossed the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) out of the saddle.

Alessandro Ballan (Lampre-NGC) out of the saddle. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador (Astana) crosses the finish line.

Alberto Contador (Astana) crosses the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador earned the polka-dot climber's jersey for having the best split time on the Côte de Beausoleil.

Alberto Contador earned the polka-dot climber's jersey for having the best split time on the Côte de Beausoleil. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong powers out of the start house.

Lance Armstrong powers out of the start house. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) during the Tour's opening stage.

David Millar (Garmin-Slipstream) during the Tour's opening stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alberto Contador, wearing his Spanish time trial champion skinsuit, was bested only by Cancellara in the opening time trial.

Alberto Contador, wearing his Spanish time trial champion skinsuit, was bested only by Cancellara in the opening time trial. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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2008 Tour runner-up Cadel Evans opens his 2009 Tour de France campaign.

2008 Tour runner-up Cadel Evans opens his 2009 Tour de France campaign. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara is ecstatic about earning the Tour's first yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara is ecstatic about earning the Tour's first yellow jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger, leader of the best young rider classification, is congratulated by Prince Albert of Monaco.

Roman Kreuziger, leader of the best young rider classification, is congratulated by Prince Albert of Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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(L-R) Prince Albert of Monaco, F1 driver Fernando Alonso and Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx at the start of the Tour in Monaco.

(L-R) Prince Albert of Monaco, F1 driver Fernando Alonso and Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx at the start of the Tour in Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The Monte Carlo Casino.

The Monte Carlo Casino. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Prince Albert of Monaco with the day's first starter, Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano).

Prince Albert of Monaco with the day's first starter, Kenny Van Hummel (Skil-Shimano). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) caught and passed Giro champion Denis Menchov.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) caught and passed Giro champion Denis Menchov. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) crosses the finish line in 9th place.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) crosses the finish line in 9th place. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara is happy to be in yellow.

Fabian Cancellara is happy to be in yellow. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Denis Menchov (Rabobank) passes the Monte Carlo Casino.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) passes the Monte Carlo Casino. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara gets some help with his yellow jersey from Bernard Hinault (L) and Prince Albert of Monaco.

Fabian Cancellara gets some help with his yellow jersey from Bernard Hinault (L) and Prince Albert of Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana) begins his first Tour in four years with a 10th place finish.

Lance Armstrong (Astana) begins his first Tour in four years with a 10th place finish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen (Quick Step) in the Tour's opening stage.

Tom Boonen (Quick Step) in the Tour's opening stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara puts on a display of power on the streets of Monaco.

Fabian Cancellara puts on a display of power on the streets of Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) powers up a climb in the stage one time trial.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) powers up a climb in the stage one time trial. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) passed by the entrance to the Monte Carlo Casino.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) passed by the entrance to the Monte Carlo Casino. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Levi Leipheimer (Astana) accelerates to the finish.

Levi Leipheimer (Astana) accelerates to the finish. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Daniele Bennati (Liquigas).

Daniele Bennati (Liquigas). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha).

Italy's Filippo Pozzato (Team Katusha). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong fans made their presence known in Monaco.

Lance Armstrong fans made their presence known in Monaco. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - NGC)

Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre - NGC) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara dons the Tour's first maillot jaune.

Fabian Cancellara dons the Tour's first maillot jaune. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Lance Armstrong (Astana)

Lance Armstrong (Astana) (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step).

Matteo Tosatto (Quick Step). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) crosses the finish line in 61st place.

Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) crosses the finish line in 61st place. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) does not have the ideal physique for hilly, technical time trials.

Danilo Napolitano (Team Katusha) does not have the ideal physique for hilly, technical time trials. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream).

Bradley Wiggins (Garmin-Slipstream). (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre tried to limit his losses in the opening time trial.

Defending Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre tried to limit his losses in the opening time trial. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger celebrates his maillot blanc for best young rider.

Roman Kreuziger celebrates his maillot blanc for best young rider. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) steps to the podium to receive the white jersey for best young rider.

Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) steps to the podium to receive the white jersey for best young rider. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) roars across the finish line.

Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) roars across the finish line. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Swiss road champion Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) on the podium for winning the Tour's first stage.

Swiss road champion Fabian Cancellara (Team Saxo Bank) on the podium for winning the Tour's first stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Fabian Cancellara kisses his hard-earned yellow jersey.

Fabian Cancellara kisses his hard-earned yellow jersey. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Luxembourg's time trial champion Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-HTC).

Luxembourg's time trial champion Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia-HTC). (Image credit: Sirotti)
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Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step)

Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) (Image credit: Sirotti)

Pounding, pounding and pounding as if each turn of the pedals were grinding a mother cow through the mincer, Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara spun his legs the only way he knew how Saturday in Monaco, unleashing the beast within to capture the first maillot jaune of the 2009 Tour de France.

Following an uneventful start to the season, the atypical Swiss savagery that netted the 28-year-old prologue wins in the 2004 and 2007 Tours de France was once again used to full effect, maybe more so than before given the difficulty and distance of the 15.5-kilometre opening stage. And despite his newfound prowess in the mountains that a fortnight ago paved the way to his first Tour de Suisse title, it was perhaps the reason why this slightly trimmer Cancellara proved unbeatable.

"I think now, I'm really back," Cancellara said, whose winning time of 19:32 equated to a superlative 47.610 km/h average.

"I knew on the first uphill portion I should take it easy and not give it everything, not take in too much lactic acid till the top of the climb. [Directeur sportif] Bjarne Riis told me at the casino that I already started really strong, and then I rode my own pace and made the difference on the flatter parts."

Asked how long he wishes to be in yellow, he said, "As long as possible. But we have 3,500 km in front of us. We look to be in yellow at least till the [Stage four] team time trial. It would be nice to get it like London [in 2007], to have it for seven days. Let's enjoy now, but focus on what is coming."

On a course 7.5 kilometres too long to be called a prologue, the reigning Olympic time trial champion's winning margin of 18 seconds to Astana's Alberto Contador was nonetheless huge, the 2007 Tour champion stopping the clock at 19:50, second by one second to Bradley Wiggins of Garmin-Slipstream. Only another Astana-ite, Andreas Klöden, and last year's Tour de France runner-up, Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto, posted times under the 20-minute mark, 19:54 and 19:55, respectively, the pair rounding out the top five places.

"I can be very happy about becoming second behind a rider such as him [Cancellara]," said Contador. "I'm happy with my result, because my objective was to distance myself from my rivals for the general classification. The differences are minimal, but the important thing is that I feel good, that my legs respond well. Now, the race can begin."

Carlos Sastre of the Cervélo TestTeam, the defending Tour de France champion, finished 1:06 behind his former teammate Cancellara, which doesn't rule him out of the race by any means, in 21st on the leader board. "My feelings on the bike were good, but I had a problem with my helmet after the start so this troubled my concentration a bit," said Sastre. "But apart from this incident, my feelings were good and I think that I didn't lose too much time on the important riders."

"What happened before was the hard thing," said Cancellara, "after my crash, after sickness, after not finding my form. I always told myself to look forward, because the season is long; Flanders was my main goal for the season, but I had to say no - I didn't find form. It's been a lot of training, a lot of sacrifice [since then].

"I think I made a great decision: ride the Giro [d'Italia], get kilometres in my body, ride with the team in the Alps, train behind the motorbike, do the Tour de Suisse without thinking how good I am already, but then I showing I am back [by winning the race]."

Significant others

Along with Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer chose to set off early to avoid the threat of rain that never came, departing at 4:37 p.m., his overly hunched position unusual though powerful nonetheless. So powerful, in fact, that the 35-year-old Californian from Santa Rosa held the best time all the way until the 138th out of the scheduled 180 riders to leave - his teammate Klöden - bettered his time of 20:02, eventually slotting Leipheimer into sixth.

"Personally, I don't like to start hard, but you had to start hard on this course," Leipheimer said. "But it's kind of like, you're torturing yourself in the beginning, and then you absolutely have to kill yourself to a point of bleeding out of your ears later on. It's a controlled massacre. It's tough for me to start like that."

Seventh on Saturday, Liquigas' Roman Kreuziger can now be thought of as a dark horse, the 2009 Tour de Romandie winner's time of 20:04 just 32 seconds off the winning pace. "Everyone believes he is a champion in the making, one of the few riders who will be able to take on Andy Schleck," said five-time Tour de France champion, Bernard Hinault, in the official Tour de France guide.

Columbia-HTC's Tony Martin did threaten when he set the fastest intermediate time of 11:27 atop the Moyenne Corniche, the intermediate checkpoint coming after 7.5-km. But compared to Astana's Leipheimer who was three seconds slower at that point, the young German faded slightly over the course's back half, reversing his previous advantage and finishing with a time of 20:05 and eighth place.

The team who mysteriously lost their Tour de France champ in the year they won it, the eyes of Saxo Bank were not just glued to Cancellara but the man they believe to be their next winner-in-waiting, Andy Schleck. His lanky, skinny frame and relatively wide shoulders made not for a pretty sight on the time trial bike, but nevertheless rode well to limit his losses to one minute flat, equating to eighteenth-best, which he should be happy with.

And, of course, there was Lance...

Squatting low minutes before his 4:17 p.m. start, stretching his gluteus, then using the top tube of his Trek time trial bike like a ballet dancer would grip a bar, arms outstretched and pulling his torso rearwards to extend his back, Armstrong was going through the motions like a man on a mission: perhaps a mission to set the first stone in place en route to an eighth Tour de France.

The 37-year-old rocketed out of the start house just like he did 10 years ago at the '99 Tour, climbing the 7.2-km, Cat. 4 ascent to Beausoleil as if it was flat. The eighteenth rider to leave, it was unsurprising to see him qualify fastest at the halfway mark with 11:36 at the 7.5-km checkpoint. Flicking through the corners then powering on the straights back down to Port Hercule, he looked in control, strong, and impressive. By the day's end, his early best time of 20:12 was still good enough for tenth place.

"Very technical, [it was] hard to find the right rhythm, but I'm happy with my ride," said Armstrong, who appeared genuinely contented. "I didn't expect to win or take the [yellow] jersey. It wasn't a super, super performance, but not bad. I was nervous, which is logical. It's a long time since I had that emotion. I felt focused on the course."

Asked how it compared to his feelings four years ago, the last time he raced this great race that he won in 2005, he said, "It's almost like a foreign environment. It's difficult to replicate that intensity and that feeling in training, and I definitely didn't replicate that the last few years [during retirement].

"I'm happy. Even if we don't win [the Tour de France] I'm having a good time, and I want to be there. I have a lot of other things I could be doing right now, but I want to win a race," said Armstrong.

Leadership issues or not, with four riders in the top 10, Astana is the team to beat.

For images of stage one click here

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