[From the Tour website Prologue page]
The Tour has begun. Which means you know what I’ll be doing on waking up for the next three weeks. There’s life without the Tour, and there’s Tour Life. I like both, but Tour Life is better. For one thing, I get to be reunited with my Tour buddies, Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. They’re such good company.
Watching the Tour is mesmerizing, as Phil and Paul chat non-stop about the goings-on while the race cameras move this way and that: race leaders, breakaways, the peloton, cities, villages, countryside, odd displays made of hay or tractors. Not to be missed, as well, are the concluding race festivities. The honoring of the stage winner. Podium girls. Cycling great Bernard Hinault directing the ceremony. (Check Bernard’s facial expression as he greets the winner. What does he really think of the guy?) Helicopter shots of the finishing town. The river. Back to the podium. Awarding the appropriate-colored shirt to the leader overall or points leader or climbing leader or youth leader. Podium girls. Bernard again. A rotating view of the town’s main cathedral. Another jersey recipient. Podium girls. Bernard. A cliffside fortress above the river. An overview of tomorrow’s stage, in plan and elevation views. Closing credits played across highlights of the day’s stage.
The long wait for another day.
The Tour typically opens with a short stage called the Prologue, often held in a neighboring country rather than France. Today the Tour visited the Belgian city of Liège for a short time trial, a mere 6.4 km long. In a time trial, the riders are sent off one at a time, competing against the clock rather than each other. The start order for later time trials is determined by the overall classification, with the best riders going at the end in reverse order of their standings. For an opening time trial, the defending champion gets pride of place. So it was that Aussie Cadel Evans went off last. The penultimate starter was the great Swiss time trialist Fabian Cancellara, winner of four previous Tour prologues. He didn’t disappoint, winning today’s by 7 seconds over overall race co-favorite Bradley Wiggins and Sylvain Chavanel, with race co-favorite Evans another 10 seconds back in 13th. Small time differences in terms of the overall picture.
Tomorrow we stay in Belgium for a long ride, heading out from Liège into the Ardennes on a route featuring several small climbs, then back to Seraing, just outside Liège for a closing uphill finish. It’s not an ideal day for the sprinters. Perhaps a breakaway can succeed. Monday may be the first day for the sprinters to show their form.
Speaking of sprinters, I am, of course, a huge fan of Manxman Mark Cavendish. And then there’s our local (Washington State) star, Tyler Farrar, perhaps Cavendish’s strongest rival. Alas, many riders this year are looking past the Tour to the Olympics, so we may not see them at their best. Cavendish has said as much. Nonetheless, I’ll be watching.