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So an astonishing preformance from Armstrong - and a very exciting prologue - more news on the race later and thanks for reading!
1 Lance Armstrong 9.08.78 (45.92 km/h)
2 Laurent Jalabert 0.02
3 Raimondas Rumsas 0.04
4 Santiago Botero
5 David Millar 0.06
6 Laurent Brochard
7 Dario Frigo 0.07
8 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano
9 Joseba Beloki 0.11
10 Laszlo Bodrogi 0.10
Zabel is no threat but Armstrong is storming round - he is going to start where he finished last year - in yellow - it is an unbelievable ride - he takes the prologue and
yellow in 9.08.!!!!
Virenque at 9.26 finishes 10th. Armstrong looks to be very fast - Moreau is struggling.
Moreau on the road - Virenque 9.26 finishes 10th apparently giving him his water bottle when he was warming up...Honchar can only manage 11th spot - Rumsas still leads!
Technical difficulties, our apologies!
Jalabert now is going to take the lead!!!!! 9.10.52 - he storms into the lead! Ahead of Rumsas! Jalabert 9.10, Millar finishes in 4th spot - but is leading the young riders.
Rumsas leads with 9.11, Botero 9.12, Brochard 9.14, Frigo 9.16.
Joseba Beloki Dorronsoro, twice third, sets off for the mighty ONCE team.
Rous has crashed and changes his bike - but Verbrugghe fades and finishes 17th. Jalabert now on the road as Millar sets off - can he beat Rumsas?
Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) is going very well but Frigo has a great ride - he comes in third.
But Rumsas now takes the lead! Fantastic racing! At 9.11 Rumsas is in control!
Roberto Heras finishes in 12th spot while Brochard is flying! He takes a surprising second spot! So now, Botero, Brochard, Galdeano, Bodrogi, McGee.
Santiago Botero (Kelme) at 9.12 leads the race, Galdeano second 9.17, Bodrogi 9.21, McGee 9.21, Mancebo 9.22, Tauler 9.23.
Botero has smashed the time! The Colombian storms home into first place! Galdeano takes second fastest!
Hamilton comes in 6th place - he will be happy with that.
Ivan Basso finishes in 10th place. Santiago Botero Echeverry is on the road - this should be interesting!
Steels, in the Belgium national jersey, finishes way off the pace while Fabio Baldato is now on the road. Nicolas Vogondy, French Champion, manages only 39th place - he will be disappointed.
Francisco Mancebo Perez (Banesto) now posts the third best time.
Piotr Wadecki starts his race - good to see him back after his accident. He may do well today. Robbie McEwen is going well - third best time at the intermediate - as Tyler Hamilton starts his race, getting very quickly into his stride.
Armstrong, in a very short haircut, is in the warming up area.
José L. Rubiera Vigil finishes in 20th place so far, while Laurent Dufaux (Swi) is underway for Alessio. Alessio will be challenging the Kelme squad for best team overall this year.
Toni Tauler (Kelme) in 9.23 - third place confirmed.
Tauler is looking good for third spot.
Moncoutie, the great French hope, comes in in 6th place - a great day for Cofidis. Tauler, second in the Spanish championships, has a great ride.
Bodrogi takes the lead of the prologue on milliseconds.
So the top men so far are:
Bodrogi 9.21, McGee 9.21, Cuesta 9.23, Peron 9.24, Rubens Bertogliati 9.25, Mario Aerts, Viatcheslav Ekimov 9.27, Francisco Cabello 9.28, George Hincapie 9.29, Jorg Jaksche.
Laszlo Bodrogi finishes with the same time as McGee!
Young French prospect Sandy Casar starts his effort.
Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) - very popular - is now powering round the course, as is Kevin Livingston, the USA rider for Telekom.
Landis finishes 17th best so far, in at 9'33, Mapei's Bodrogi, an awesome time trialist, is on the road, as is Eric Dekker. Dekker is taking no chances and hurls the buike round the corners.
Let's not forget that Botero, Galdeano, Leipheimer, Millar and Armstrong are waiting to go, so the results will change a lot yet.
Jörg Jaksche (Spa) finishes in 9th place, while Landis looking smooth and strong, powers around to the cheers of the packed town.
Vasseur finishes in 60th place, Francisco Cabello Luque finishes in 7th place.
Jorg Jaksche is now on the road as is Floyd Landis. Both men are capable of a good ride.
McGee is storming home to take the lead! 9.21! Best so far - the Wizard of Oz is on magical form!!!
So: McGee 9.21, Cuesta 9.23, Peron 9.24, Bertogliati 9.25, Aerts 9.26
Francaise des Jeux is the best French team so far this season with 14 victories, and I expect them to do well in this Tour. Marc Madiot is one of the best Directeurs Sportif and he has got a great team spirit in his team.
Former yellow jersey holder Cédric Vasseur (Fra) is now on the road.
Aerts just fades on the final drag, but still takes fourth place.
Brad McGee, one of the day's favourites, leaves the starting gate - a lot of people think Australia will be celebrating this evening. Although Phil Anderson's wife considers his teammate Baden Cooke to be the favourite.
Ekimov has a great ride, fourth @ 9.27, a remarkable achievement.
Happily, the short shower has finished and the road seems to have stayed dry.
Tafi, a very popular rider, is now on the course, to huge cheers.
Hondo finishes in 10th place - meanwhile the Millar fans are out in force. Their t-shirts say on the front
"What time is it?" On the back: "Millar time!"
Cuesta (Cofidis) has done a great ride he takes the lead with 9.23!
Top three so far:
Andrea Peron (Italy/CSC-Tiscali) 9 min 24 sec
Rubens Bertogliati (Swiss/Lampre) at 1 sec
George Hincapie (USA/U.S. Postal) at 5 sec
Voigt (CA) comes in in 17th place. Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) is now on the road - how remarkable to see this veteran campaigner back in the saddle for Armstrong.
Jakob Pil finishes in 20th place - Riis said his team was ready and it looks like he was correct.
Bad news - it is starting to rain again - not heavily, but enough to worry the later starters.
The course is very technical and has small sections of cobbles. Jakob Pil (CSC) is looking very smooth on the tricky cobbled corner - let's hope his teammate Hamilton does not make the same mistakes he did in the Giro.
Now comes Miguel Martinez - not surprisingly for a pure climber, not a great time - but how exciting to see this young man follow his father's footsteps.
Guerrini (Telekom) has an excellent ride; he finishes at 9.47 - he may well take another mountain stage this year,
but an excellent start for CSC with two men in the top, three so far and Hamilton and Jalabert yet to set off.
But now Bertogliati (Lampre) comes in at 9.25 to take second place.
Iban Mayo is now on the road - it will be interesting to see how he performs.
So the top three are:
Peron (CSC) storms home in 9.24 to take the lead so far.
An estimated 150,000 spectators line today's route - it is an electric atmosphere - which will only build as the bigger names start their race.
One person watching today's proceedings with a wry smile must be Pedro Delgado - he, of course, forgot to turn up at the prologue in 1989 - and lost 2''38' as a result. He eventually finished third, 3.38 behind Greg LeMond.
60 riders of the 189 have now completed the course - which seems, if anything, to be drying out - Hincapie still leads, ahead of Carlos Sastre (CSC-Tiscali) who is two seconds behind.
The prologue was introduced to the Tour de France in 1967. 1a Angers-Angers, 5.775 km ITT. The top three that year were:
1. José-Maria Errandonea en 7'43"
2. Poulidor à 6"
3. Janssen à 10"
Armstrong said yesterday, "Hamilton knows my team, and he knows my style of riding, Tyler’s a threat. In my opinion he’s one of the favourites."
Strong performance from Bobby Julich - he posts a time of 9.46. Following Ullrich's non start and Vinokourov's decision not to start, the Telekom team will be relying heavily on his experience.
News from Luxembourg is that George Hincapie has just posted the fasted time so far with 9.29 over the 7.3 kilometres.
This of course would have a disastrous effects on the later starter - as occured in 1995 - when the late rain finished Boardman's Tour before it began and not one of the 20 prologue finishers finished in the top ten of the final rankings.
At the 3.5k checkpoint, there is an early battle shaping up between ONCE and US Postal. Olano is clearly the early "au bloc" man for ONCE, blazing through in first with a time of 4:15. George Hincapie is the clear "au bloc" man for Postal, as he has gone through just a fraction behind Olano, also at 4:15.At the finish, the current leader is #209, the last number in the race, Eddy Seigneur (FRA)
of Jean Delatour @ 9:51:900. Second is Enrico Cassani (Ita) of Domo @ 10:01.090. Those times will surely be bested when Olano and Hincapie cross the line.