93rd Tour de France - ProT
France, July 1-23, 2006
Results & report
Prologue - Saturday, July 1: Strasbourg ITT, 7 km
Complete live report
Photo ©: Brecht Decaluwé
Welcome, dear readers, to the new
Tour de France. This is a more slimmed down version of the old Tour de France,
with fresh faces, lower power-to-weight, and doesn't give you heartburn. After
Operacion Puerto caused 13 to be removed from the Tour's starting list yesterday,
we will see a Tour without top favourites Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Alexandre
Vinokourov, or Francisco Mancebo. Taking a positive approach, one could say
Operacion Puerto has been a real shot in the arm for cycling, and one that it
has needed for a while.
Despite all the drama of yesterday, we still
have an interesting Tour ahead of us, and quite a few riders must now fancy
their chances for the win. Even without Basso, CSC has a pretty strong team
with riders like Sastre, Schleck, Voigt, Julich, Zabriskie - don't count them
out for the GC. T-Mobile is a bit weaker, but still has Andreas Klöden and Serguei
Gonchar. Discovery has all its riders intact, and José Azevedo, George Hincapie,
Yaroslav Popovych and Paolo Savoldelli are all big hitters.
all, there are 176 riders of the original 189 down to start today's flat, fast
7 km prologue in Strasbourg. It's sunny, warm, and humid, with temperatures
nudging 30 degrees and only a light wind blowing.
Alas, our live
coverage took a hit sometime in June when the engine room of the Hindenburg
V spontaneously combusted. It wasn't even an insurance job, much to our
accounting dept's annoyance. It was a sorry mess one Saturday morning as we
gazed upon its smoking ruins, but it didn't take long for us to assess the damage
and rebuild her as the Hindenburg V-1! We even installed a new bath and
spa in the southwestern wing of the dirigible, and that will help to carry us
into the future. Onward and upward!
At 13:15 local time, French rider
Cédric Coutouly (Agritubel) had the honour of rolling down the start ramp as
first rider of this year's Tour de France. Even without the big favourites,
the French and German fans are packing the streets of Strasbourg, hoping to
see... if not a totally clean race, at least a 'cleaner' one.
7.1 km-course in one of the European institutional capitals includes several
tight, but rolling corners, as well as three 90° angles, which makes it the
perfect fit for all the fast and furious specialists out there. Today's winner
must be able to ride hard on a very short distance, in a perfectly aerodynamic
position, and powerfully accelerate out of those corners. An intermediate time
check after 3.5km will give us an indication of who's going strong, with the
main favourites today being last year's winner Dave Zabriskie (CSC), Michael
Rogers (T-Mobile), George Hincapie (Discovery), Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner),
Floyd Landis (Phonak) and Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) - as well as David Millar
(Saunier Duval), who is back to racing after his two-year ban for admitting
to EPO use.
As the riders continue to start,
one by one, with 1 minute separating them, we have the first best from Bert
Grabsch (Phonak) with 8.32 minutes. That time is sure to be beaten by many still
This morning, all the teams went to recon the course,
including some of their team directors, like Bjarne Riis and Christian Henn
The last weeks have been - to say
the least - disturbing for the cycling community, including the ones reporting
on it like us. In the coming days, we will surely continue to be inundated with
further information about the current doping scandal, which to many observers
is "worse than Festina". Only time will be able to tell if the peloton will
finally learn its lesson from it, or if some will continue their habits of trying
to get an advantage over their rivals, who they suspect must "be on something",
Like Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said, "to
many spectators, it wouldn't matter if the final times of a Tour de France were
slower. What the fans want to see is the struggle, the will to pursue, the combat.
A clean and honourable sport could only add to the public excitement and the
popularity of cycling."
But now, back to the sport: Chris
Horner form Davitamon-Lotto is four seconds ahead of Grabsch at the intermediate
time check. He's doing well!
The experts estimate that today's
winner will clock a time around 7.50 minutes. It will be interesting to see
what Scotsman David Millar is able to do after two years without competition.
He will be starting at 15.56 CET.
Climber Michael Rasmussen from Rabobank
has left the ramp. He looks lean as ever and surely has his eyes set on that
polkadot jersey again. If only there weren't those time trials in his way...
But his excellent performances in the mountains will hopefully make everyone
forget those bad memories of last year's penultimate stage.
Sebastian Lang from Gerolsteiner
is the first to beat Grabsch's best time - by a whole ten seconds. The young
German rider is a good time triallist, similar to the talented Markus Fothen,
who's riding his first Tour de France this year. The elder brother of Thomas
Fothen (both Gerolsteiner) is also strong in the mountains, making him an possible
candidate for stage races in the future. A man to watch.
Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile) has also
set out on the course now. The former time trial world champion could put Lang's
best time in jeopardy.
As we've heard, some of the teams sponsored
by Shimano are testing new four-spoke wheels today. We'll give you further information
as soon as it's available.
Stuart O'Grady beats Lang at the
intermediate time check by almost one second! This could be a good race for
Stuey if he manages to hold the pace during the last kilometres. The time differences
between the sprinters will be interesting to watch, as they may have a possibility
to grab the yellow jersey in one of the coming, flat stages.
The wind has been increasing since
the start if the race. Especially on the long final straight, the breeze has
evolved into a headwind, which is sure to influence times. Other than that,
the weather is still perfect. O'Grady places second behind Lang, with Gonchar
third at the moment.
Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne)
powers down the last hundred meters. He finishes six seconds down of Lang, but
will surely not be too disappointed. He will have his eyes on the GC favourites
Joost Posthuma (Rabobank), another young, talented rider
with a huge engine, is also underway, clocking a new best at the intermediate
Posthuma lost his advantage on the
second part of the parcours and came in ninth, 13 seconds down of the still
Luxembourger Fränk Schleck (CSC)is
pedaling at 105 turns pre minute, riding just beside the barriers. He's giving
his all, just like the other riders, but this is not his specialty - he's far
behind in the finish.
Ralf Grabsch (Milram) is coming in.
Hammering in the heat. But he, too, hasn't got a chance to be in the front.
There goes Michael Boogerd (Rabobank).
He's at 108 rpm, but took on one corner too slow.
Bobby Julich (CSC)
is up next. He should do well today, too. Off he goes!
Julich wears dossard number 11 for
his excluded team leader. We will see if the CSC riders have assimilated the
chaos of the last few days and the exclusion of Ivan Basso or if it still weighs
down on them.
Boogerd is at 99 rpm, definitely
using a bigger bracket than others. But that's his style... Julich is using
a non-round ring.
There are still gusts of wind disturbing the riders
in the streets of Strasbourg. Some of these corners aren't easy to take on,
either - this parcours is pretty technical.
Popovych powers down the finish straight,
arriving 15 seconds down on Lang. We can see papers and debris being blown across
the street. It's not easy to steer well in this kind of wind, which might be
one reason why Lang's time hasn't been beaten yet. It was less windy at the
start of the race.
Still, Lang IS the German time trial champion!
The French time trial champion, Sylvain
Chavanel (Cofidis) is out now. His DS Francis Vanlondersele is shouting into
his microphone in the car behind him, telling him "you're always superior to
your body! Allez, allez!!" Chavanel grinds his teeth... But it's the second
half of the course that really wears out the riders, that's for sure.
The best average speed at the moment is 50.94 km/h.
German Jens Voigt is off! The German
will want to do really well today - he's the sort of person to turn frustration
and anger into even more willpower.
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) is
at 101 rpm, looking very smooth. He gets out of the saddle after the last curve
and finishes 23 seconds down of Lang... and O Grady. We'll see what World champ
Tom Boonen will do on this course later on - he said he wanted to wear the yellow
jersey to Belgium on this Tour! That looks unlikely for the Australian now.
Gilberto Simoni (Saunier) has started,
gearing up. He looks very motivated.
Voigt is in the finish now -
19 seconds down. That result surely wasn't what he had hoped for.
Frenchman Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne)
is now suffering on the heated tarmac, while Erik Dekker (Rabobank) has started.
Dekker the elder has enough experience to know exactly what's to do in the next
weeks - while Dekker the younger was taken out of the team's line-up before
the Tour de France, due to a lack of form.
The streets aren't very
wide either, which makes the corners more difficult to navigate.
Brard uses too high a development,
unable to accelerate out of the corners. He's having a hard time now in the
Paolo Savoldelli, Carlos Sastre and
Andreas Klöden have set out! We wonder if Klöden will become T-Mobile's leader
on this Tour... surely the team has to change its strategy now that the 'Kaiser'
Former teammate Erik Zabel is now also underway in his
new Milram jersey. He'll be sprinting a whole 7.1 km now!
Here are the last 15 riders to start:
15:55 Benoît Vaugrenard (Française des Jeux)
15:56 David Millar (Saunier
15:57 Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis, le Credit par Telephone)
15:58 Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
15:59 Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
16:00 Tom Boonen (Quick Step-Innergetic)
16:01 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse
16:02 Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital)
Floyd Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems)
16:04 Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto)
16:05 Denis Menchov (Rabobank)
16:06 Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner)
16:07 Christophe Moreau (AG2R Prevoyance)
16:08 Michael Rogers (T-Mobile
16:09 David Zabriskie (Team CSC)
16:10 George Hincapie (Discovery
Channel Pro Cycling Team)
We will soon know if the favourites
will be able to beat the early best of Sebastian Lang in these more windy conditions.
David Millar is off!
Klöden finishes 12 seconds behind
Lang. Good for him!
Millar is very steady, sitting on the outer tip
of his saddle. Nice, smooth pedalling.
Nice ride by Savoldelli, too: he
finishes third behind Lang and O'Grady. The Italian is one of the Discovery
rider Johan Bruyneel can choose from to take the team's leadership later on.
Tom Boonen (Quickstep) is now also
out, looking determined to chase down Zabel.
Millar uses a 54 ring,
he's now returning back to start/finish zone. But he was 8 secs behind at the
time check - he won't make it today.
Thor Hushovd (CA)
Photo ©: AFP
Floyd Landis missed his start! He
wasn't even on the ramp when the beep came on. But he only missed 6 seconds...
still, that won't do it for the win today.
Thor Hushovd leads halfway,
by 2 seconds!
And Alejandro Valverde equals Hushovd
at the time check! While Hushovd gets into the finish... and beats Lang by four
seconds!! What a ride!
World champion Michael Rogers takes
a deep breath before starting. He's off! Next up is Dave Z (CSC) and George
Hincapie (Discovery) - the Tour has begun...
And Valverde finishes
third at the moment - quite a performance by the small Spaniard!
Landis comes into the finish and
still takes sixth placing, nine seconds behind Hushovd - he did well in spite
of his missed start.
It will be down to Rogers, Zabriskie
and Hincapie now. The bets are on!
Zabriskie is third at 1 second after
3.7 km. Leipheimer finished 21 seconds down on Hushovd.
Rogers comes in fourth. This wasn't
Zabriskie finishes second!
here comes Hincapie... giving it
all, very powerful.
And it's by 0.73 seconds that Hushovd
wins in front of Hincapie!! Well done by both of them!
What a close finish! Hincapie missed
it by a hair. Valverde did really well but considering his sprinting qualities
this is not actually a surprise.
Zabriskie might still be under the
spell of the bad news in his team, having trouble to concentrate.
That's all from us right now. Joins
us again tomorrow at 13.00 CET for the first stage in this year's Tour de France:
a loop around Strasbourg possibly ending in a bunch sprint. Will we see big
Thor keep the Green jersey as well the Yellow? Boonen will be looking for it,
too... Bye for now.
km 3.7 (all riders through)
1 Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) 4.04
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
3 Dave Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.01
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
5 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.02
6 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel
7 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC 0.03
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step
10 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.04
Finish - km 7.1 (all riders through)
1 Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) 8.17
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
3 Dave Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.04
4 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.06
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.08
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.09
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.10
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