For the full results and the play-by-play report from today's stage, click here.
Golden Hams of the Day
Ham-Gazers of the Day
- "Mad" Bradley McGee (FDJeux.com). After a lot of frustration, the flying Aussie had the perfect Prologue and took both the stage and the Yellow Jersey. He was one of the last to go, and he didn't disappoint as he flew around the course in 7' 26". He will now have to defend the Jersey from the sprinters, and he should be able to hold them off for a day or two. Remember, McGee also won an early stage last year with a surprise attack in the last few hundred meters, so he is fully capable of holding his lead until the Team Time Trial on Stage 4.
- Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and David Millar (Cofidis). Zubeldia had the best time for over an hour, setting a blistering pace and breaking the then-best time by eight seconds. His ride held up well, as he finished in 3rd only 2" behind McGee. Truly a great ride for the Orangeman who looks to shine in the mountains. Millar, on the other hand, will be extremely frustrated with his 2nd place finish only a few hundredths of a second behind McGee. Millar was smoking the course, but in the penultimate straightaway his chain got hung up. He was able to reach down with his hand and fix the problem, but he lost a few crucial seconds that cost him the stage win and the Yellow Jersey. Still, he showed that his form is holding and that he is ready for his big run at the GC.
- Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi) and Tyler "One-Armed Bandit" Hamilton (CSC). These GC hopefuls really came out strong today. Ullrich powered to 4th, only 2" behind McGee, a great return to the Tour after his bizarre journey through car crashes, club drugs, and team problems over the last year. "RoboJan" looks hard, fit, and ready to hammer. He was the first of the big guns to challenge the time of Zubeldia as he came in at virtually the exact same time as the early leader. His time held up well, and the fans of the big German will be dancing in the streets at his strong start. Hamilton came across in 6th at 6", and showed that he has carried his excellent spring form into the Tour. Like Ullrich, Hamilton is really better at the longer time trials, so this performance will really give him and his team a lift. Both Ullrich and Hamilton will also take a burst of confidence from the fact that they beat Armstrong today, and they will both now look to keep themselves out of trouble until the next showdown in the Team Time Trial.
- Joseba Beloki (ONCE-Eroski), Santiago "The Battler" Botero (Telekom), and Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank). These team leaders rode well today, showing their teams that they are ready to challenge for a high GC placing when they return to Paris in three weeks. Beloki isn't as strong in the time trials as many of his rivals, but his 8th place at 9" behind McGee is a brilliant start for the great Spanish hope. He has talked a lot about attacking and going after Armstrong this year, and today at least he seems to be ready to live up to his words. Botero is the current Time Trial World Champion, but he has had a lot of trouble with illness and form this season. He came into the Tour as a big question mark, but his ride today, coming in 9th at 9", seems to indicate that his legs are finally coming around. Both Beloki and Botero will take heart that they only gave up 2" to the big Texan as they head into the first week. For his part, Leipheimer's 12th at 11" is a good start for a man who struggles in such short time trials. The American has had a quiet season, and commented yesterday that he has put all of his eggs in the Tour de France basket this year. Today he looked strong and ready to make another run at a top-ten GC finish, giving up only 4" to his former teammate Armstrong.
- Victor Hugo Pena, Vjatceslav Ekimov, and George Hincapie (US Postal presented by Berry Floor). The BlueBerry Boys had a great start to the race as a team, placing four riders in the top 13 spots. Hincapie set the early best time, and finished in 13th at 11". The "Big Rig" has come back strong from his early season illness, and looks to be in his best Tour form ever. Ekimov, the current Olympic Time Trial Champion, rode to a strong 10th place at 11". "The Pensioner" is the oldest man in the race, and still he whupped on lots of the young upstarts who were favorites to win this stage. And who would have guessed that Victor Hugo Peña would beat his team leader today? "The Notorious VHP" nailed down 5th place, 6" behind McGee but just faster than Hamilton and Armstrong. With this kind of performance, the BlueBerry Boys took an 8" lead on Bianchi in the Team Competition; if they can hold this lead they will get the pole position in the team time trial, which is a huge tactical advantage as they will get to see all of the time splits of their rivals so they know exactly what they have to do on the road. This strong team performance also bodes very well for the condition of the team and their ability to excel in the team time trial and beyond.
- Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2r Prevoyance), and Baden Cooke (FDJeux.com). Over the next few days, the sprinters will go at it trying to take the Yellow Jersey by winning bonus sprints and stages. Freire took the early lead as the best of the sprinters, finishing in 33rd at 18". Kirsipuu was 36th at 19", and Cooke was 45th at 20". All three of these sprinters now have a huge advantage over men like Robbie McEwen (Lotto-Domo, 101st at 32"), Erik Zabel (Telekom, 112th at 34"), and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo, 125th at 35"). This battle should come to the fore and be the big story of the next few stages.
Crazy Jane's Jambons Délicieux: The Prologue
- Lance Armstrong (US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor). Last year, "El Jefe" smoked the tough and hilly course of the Prologue to make a big statement to his rivals. This year, he won't be happy with his finish in 7th at 7", having surrendered 5" to Ullrich and 1" to Hamilton. Also, he won't be happy that he failed to gain more time on Beloki, Botero, and Leipheimer. Still, the anti-Lance contingent of the press will likely make too much out of this performance. While his rivals will take heart at this result, it was still a very flat and technical course that won't show anything about what kind of climbing legs Lance has. Lance is much stronger on the longer time trials and in the mountains, so while he'll be upset, he'll also be motivated to show his critics what kind of form he has when the race actually gets tough. With his team showing so much strength, Lance fans have nothing to worry about… and his rivals might get up a bit too high before the big smackdowns in the team time trial and the Alps.
- Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo) and Angel Casero (Team Bianchi). These two Vuelta winners came into the race as team leaders and favorites in the GC. However, they put in very poor performances today in a discipline that is supposed to be their strength. Gonzalez came in 64th at 24", and Casero came in 54th at 21". This seems to indicate that the hopes of Spain this year reside with climbers like Beloki and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel-Euskadi, 47th at 19").
- Michael Rogers (Quickstep-Davitamon). The young star has won the Tours of Belgium and Germany this year, and just won the Route de Sud heading into the Tour. Like his compatriot Bradley McGee a couple of years ago, Rogers came into his first Tour with a lot of pressure to do well in the Prologue. Like McGee, he seemed to have a nervous performance and only finished in 19th at 13". Still, this young rider is a pure talent who will have some good rides before we return to Paris, and who will be a power in this race for years to come.
Ah, the crowds, the drama, the rich pageantry of the Tour de France. Today, the peloton kicked off the centenary Grand Boucle in style, giving us a little morsel of what's to come over the next three weeks, and it promises to be Délicieux!
Today's riders of note:
- Jan Ullrich- I'm going to have to give that Celeste Blue TT helmet, with the built in eye shields, that Angel Casero and some of the other Bianchi-men were wearing, a big thumbs down, but the big German is looking slim, fit, and fantastic in the retro Bianchi strip! As he was drilling it into the homestretch, a girl could not help noticing that his rock hard legs were going pow, Pow, POW! I'm going to have to give Der Kaiser top honors today. Good ride, too. That always helps! It's great to see Ullrich back and up to the challenge!
- Lance Armstrong - He came in a disappointing 7th today, but if the fit of that yellow skin suit is any indicator of things to come, his form is looking good.
- The Champions - There's nothing like a Champion's jersey to make a guy look fetching. Eric Zabel, Stuart O'Grady and Santiago Botero all deserve special mention in this category. Botero also had those blue eyes going for him, lets hope he has a great tour - I like him on the podium.
- Alessandro Petacchi - After all those trips to the podium in the Giro, I think a few of the ladies have been able to reach a conclusive decision: that guy is good lookin'! I have a feeling he'd look good in green, too.
- David Millar - He's cute, but more importantly, that was a studly ride. He was pounding one home when his chain slipped, so he fixed it en route and still finished on the exact same time as winner Bradley McGee?! Nice work, David. He isn't wearing yellow, but we all know who would've won.
- The Postmen - With four men in the top 15, Postal took the prize for the best team of the day, and they looked good while they were at it. It's always a pleasure to see Eki in a bike costume, Victor Hugo has the biggest smile in the peloton, and I didn't see Big Hink on the coverage today - his ride was too early - but he finished 13th, with only the top talent ahead of him, and something tells me that he was all hopped up on charm enhancers while he was doing it.
- Honorable mention has to go to OLN's man on the scene, Frankie Andreu. That hair is an event all by itself. Note to the OLN cameramen: when Frankie is interviewing a rider, make sure he stays in frame! But, speaking of hair, the final shout out needs to go to Laurent Brochard: from where I was sitting, it looked like he was sans mullet!
Give us your picks! Did we miss your most délicieux rider in our line up? drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and help us celebrate the beauty of cycling!