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93rd Tour de France - Prologue LIVE Coverage
By Staff
Date: 7/1/2006
93rd Tour de France - Prologue LIVE Coverage

93rd Tour de France
The Prologue - Strasbourg 7.1 Km

The Prologue is a winding, flat 7.1 km individual time trial through the streets of Strasbourg. While the route is flat, there are seven tight corners that will add a level of technical difficulty to the course. There will be many races within the race during the Prologue. First of all, the men hoping for a good showing on General Classification will be trying to keep themselves close to their rivals and show that they've got good form. Second, the sprinters will be trying to keep themselves close to the man who wins the stage. While sprinters rarely win the Prologue, the ensuing stages offer time bonuses at intermediate sprints and the finish line, thus giving the sprinters opportunities to take over the lead in the race. As sprinters lose huge time in the mountains, they must fight like crazy in the first week if they want to have a shot at wearing the Yellow Jersey of overall leader. This means that they must ride a strong prologue and then chase the time bonuses for the rest of the week.

The favorites for this stage include David Zabriskie (CSC), David Millar (Saunier Duval-Prodir), and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel).

Here are the top five times so far:
1. Lang (Gerolsteiner) @ 8' 21"
2. Grabsch (Phonak) @ 10"
3. Horner (Davitamon) @ 11"
4. Galvez (Caisse d'Epargne) @ 14"
5. Albasini (Liquigas) @ 16"

1438 PDT There are still over 100 men left to go. Whoa! Stuart O'Grady (CSC) has just come in at .13" slower than Lang, so he is 2nd so far. That will put him in with a shot at Yellow over the next few days. And now Serhiy Honchar (T-Mobile) has set a good time, only 5" slower than Lang, to move into 3rd so far.

Cancellara (CSC) won this two years ago, but he wasn't brought to the Tour this year. Too bad, he would have been a threat on this course. Cancellara isn't the only rider missing today at the start that would have counted on this course as 176 riders take to the road for the 93 rd Tour.

Lang, the German Time Trial Champion, still has the best time at 8' 21". Karpets sets a good time, 5" behind Lang. So Karpets is 3rd best so far. Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) is of course a candidate for the GC in the long term.

Well Posthuma (Rabobank) set the best time by 1" at the intermediate check, and he now comes in 12" back. He really faded in that final stretch of the course.

Quinziato of Liquigas sets a good time at 8" slower than Lang. That's 5th best so far.

The Swedish Time Trial Champ Gustav Larsson (FDJeux) puts in a so-so time, 8' 39", which is 18" slower than Lang.  Michael Boogerd (Rabobank) the Nederland's road champ is on the route. Landaluze (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is coming in, well he is over 20" back of Lang.

1513 CEST - Boogerd is in the final kilometer. This isn't his discipline... he's looking to stay close with Stage 3 in mind. Stage 3 will suit him, and if he wins it, and has a good Prologue time, he might be able to take Yellow. But no, he's already much slower than Lang. Boogerd comes in at 8' 51", 30" behind Lang.

Popovych (Discovery) is on course, about halfway through the race. Julich (CSC) is also on course. Of course Bobby Julich is one of only two riders in the race who has ever been on the final GC podium in the Tour de France.  Julich was 3rd in 1998. The other one is Kloden (T-Mobile) who was 2nd in 2004. No other podium finishers are in the race.

Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) is putting up a good time... 8' 33", 12" slower than Lang.  Julich is posting a solid time: he comes in at 8' 35", 14" behind.

Popovych is setting fast time, but he too is not threatening Lang. 8' 37" for Popo, which isn't that great, but not bad.

1520 CEST  - Chavanel, the French Time Trial Champion, is on course. The Cofidis rider is looking fast, but not faster than Lang.

Axel Merckx (Phonak) hits the road. This is his last Tour. I'd love to see him do something good in the race. Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) also heads out now. But the French producers are giving most of the screen time to Chavanel right now. He's not going to beat Lang, but how will the time be? 19" behind Lang.

1527 CEST - Well, it's been a while since anyone challenged the leaders. Merckx comes up to the line, 8' 54". Not his best performance. McEwen is putting in a good time... he's chasing Yellow. If he can keep it close, he might take the Yellow Jersey in a day or two with the time bonuses at the finishes of the flat stages.

McEwen finishes in 8' 49", not bad for a sprinter. This puts him 28" behind O'Grady though. Zubeldia off. It's going to interesting to see how Euskatel go in this Tour.

1537 CEST - Voigt (CSC) comes in 20" back of Lang. This is a really tough little course, giving some big gaps for only 7.1 km. Gibo Simoni (Saunier Duval) is on course. He is really not known for short Prologue performances. He'll be dreaming of the Alps. His teammate Millar is the one expected to do well today. Pozzato (Quick Step), the winner of Milano-San Remo, in on course. He's going to be working leadout for Boonen tomorrow.

They are sending the riders every 30"... wow. That's a small gap. Azevedo (Discovery) finishes 20" back of Lang. Hincapie is the one Discovery is pulling for today. 

You know, Zabriskie (CSC) is the favorite today, and most people discount him as a long-term GC threat. But the 27 year old  is actually a decent climber. He's just usually working for somebody else on the climbs in stage races. Without Basso in the race, Zabriskie might show that he can at least do a decent climb when on his own.  If Zabriskie were to win this Tour, I'd probably fall over in shock. But if he can ride well in the mountains, top ten isn't that unreasonable.

1547 CEST - Zubeldia (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has finished in the top five before in the prologue, but today he is 21" behind Lang.  Goubert (pronounced Goo-Bear, not Goo-Ber) hits the road for AG2r-Prevoyance.
Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) hits the road. He's won a Prologue or two in his day (and clobbered everyone in the Giro d'Italia Prologue this year). Is he on form enough to threaten Lang's time? We'll see in about 8'.

1554 CEST - So Kloden is wearing the number 21 that should have been Ullrich's. What kind of ride will Kloden put in? Is he a GC threat?  Savoldelli has equaled the best time at the half-way point. He's flying.

 Now the start of David "Scotch Rocket" Millar (Saunier Duval)... a lot of people have been waiting for this.

1556 CEST - Kloden is in at 13" behind Lang, not a bad ride for him. Wiggins (Cofidis) is the last man to go for Cofidis. His form is very good. Oh, here comes Savoldelli!  And the Blue Falcon will push the best time! No! He's fallen to 4" behind Lang! That's 3rd best so far.

Simple Recipe
If you can win the time trials
and if you can win the mountains,
there's not much more to win
than the Tour de France.

Stage 9, 1999, from Dancing on the Pedals: The Found Poetry of Phil Liggett
by Doug Donaldson and Phil Liggett

1600 CEST - Lang's time is looking better and better. But will it stand up to Millar? Hushovd (Credit Agricole) hits the road. "T-Bone" Tom Boonen (Quick Step) will be chasing Hushovd on the road. Both men are looking for a good time so that they have a shot at Yellow in the big sprints to come over the next two days. Simoni finished 21" behind Lang.
Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) is still 7th best in this stage at 11" back. Great ride by him earlier in the day.

Landis is late for his start time!!! The clock has started, and Floyd shows up and goes. He just lost over 5"! That is horrible! You can't miss your start time for the Tour de France. Floyd will be angry about that. Here comes Millar... he won't beat Lang, but he has a good time: 10" behind Lang. 

1605 CEST - Hushovd has smashed the best time at the halfway point. But will he fade like everybody else so far? Valverde follows neck to neck with Thor at the checkpoint. Valverde is on the road for Caisse d'Epargne. He's now a GC favorite, and he's setting a good time on the road too.

Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) hits the road. All the big favorites are going now. Well, I wonder what stories will come out about Landis missing his start time. He'll be lucky to limit the damage today.

Hushovd is coming up the finishing straight... it will be close! Hushovd does it! 8' 17"! Wow! Amazing time for Hushovd. He might not even wait for the sprints tomorrow to take the Yellow Jersey! Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), the World Time Trial Champion, hits the road. Will he threaten Hushovd's time? Boonen finishes in 11" behind Hushovd. Good time for him! Now Zabriskie, the hot favorite, is out of the start house. He looks grim and focused.

16:09 CEST - Now Zabriskie, the hot favorite, is out of the start house. He looks grim and focused. Valverde comes up to the finish... he has faded to 8' 21", which is a good time really, but 4" slower than Hushovd.  Valverde has the 3rd best time so far. Now the final rider, George Hincapie, takes off to clean up the road. George is out fast and looking good. Well, this stage is going to go down to the last man. Quite a stunning day so far.

1610 CEST - Cunego comes in well back, the Lampre rider over 30" behind. Not great. Here comes Landis: he is only 9" slower than Hushovd... if he hadn't been late for the start, he might have the best time. As it is, he put in a good ride... nice recovery for Floyd.

Zabriskie is flying. He looks so still and effortless. Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) finishes in 8' 30", which is quite good. Rogers is storming this course too... wow, these final guys on the road are smoking it. Hushovd will be pressed for sure. Menchov (Rabobank) is 26" behind Hushovd at the line. Not bad for him.

16:15 - Zabriskie is 1" behind at the halfway point! Here comes Leipheimer into the finish... not bad, but not great... he's not a Prologue man. He's in 21" behind Hushovd. Hincapie is through the halfway point in the same time as Zabriskie! This is fun, what a race today.

Moreau (AG2r) comes in 13" behind Hushovd. Only a few men left to finish. Now Rogers is next... he doesn't look like he'll beat Hushovd. On the course, the Big Hink is hammering, blistering through the corners. Can he beat them all?  Zabriskie is looking like he will not beat Hushovd, but it will be close. Here comes the sprint... no! He's in 2nd at 8' 21".

Now Hincapie is coming through... he might beat Hushovd! Can George do it? Can he take the Yellow left by his friend Armstrong? Here he comes! It will be close! He is 2nd by fractions of a second! Hushovd has won it! Can you believe that?

Thor has banged his mighty hammer Mjolner today, and taken the win for the mighty Vikings of the North! Thor has worn Yellow before, but this time it will be sweeter, because it comes with a stage win! Amazing... 

Well the other sprinters like Boonen and O'Grady and McEwen will make note of that: Thor is on form and it will 7:22 AM [Loc] be hard to wrest Yellow from his big Norske back. 7:22 AM [Loc] It might be even harder to get the Green Jersey off his back.

So with Hincapie only fractions of a second behind, will he chase time bonuses? Or will he bide his time until the Stage 7 time trial?

Hushovd looks a bit incredulous. He says that this win was important for him. He says he wanted to forget all the stuff that's going on around the race and ride well. He says he's happy for the team and for himself.

Note: You can join fans from around the world in the Daily Peloton chat to discuss the race and the results. Dave Shields author of The Race and The Tour will be joining us in the commentary during the race. Dave will be on ESPN on Monday.

So here is the top ten on the stage (and on GC):

1. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) @ 8' 17.00"
2. George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) @ 8' 17.73"
3. Dave Zabriskie (CSC) @ 8' 21.21"
4. Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) @ 8' 21.80"
5. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) @ 8' 21.92"
6. Stuart O'Grady (CSC) @ 8' 21.93"
7. Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) @ 8' 23.30"
8. Paolo Savoldelli (Discovery Channel) @ 8' 25.02"
9. Floyd Landis (Phonak) @ 8' 26.26
10. Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d'Epargne) @ 8' 27.09"

wow, that's cutting it thin between 5th and 6th...

Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval) took the early "lead" in the Lanterne Rouge competition, finishing in 176th at 1' 11" back.

So the Vikings raid France once again, throwing the Yellow Jersey over their shoulder and climbing back into their boats to get ready for another raid tomorrow.

This ends our Live Coverage, Photos and Official results to follow. Join us tomorrow as the sprinters have a day to start the fight for the Maillot Vert.

Some comments from the fans in the DP Chat about the tour start:
BjørnP.Dal: Hushovd delivers thunder all round!
Amifan:  This is a stupid tour! But like someone said in the forum, no French riders were implicated; so the show goes on.
cjeff: Pointless doing the tour this year - they should have cancelled it I mean, why not let Vino ride - bend the rules for once - they need all the starts they can get. It seems they always shoot themselves in the foot. Go Klodi!!

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