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Prologue Time Trial 7.1km Strasbourg France July 1, 2006
Submitted by Dave Balkin on July 1, 2006

pixelA 30.8 mile an hour ride through the streets of Strasbourg France kicked off the world’s best known bike race. 176 riders off at one minute intervals is a field diminished by one full team and a few strays because of a doping scandal detailed in yesterday’s coverage.
pixelNorway’s Thor Hushovd set the yellow jersey time that American George Hincapie, Discovery’s leader, until proven otherwise, failed to match by less than a second.
pixelLast year Lance finished second in the prologue that he could have won but didn’t want to wear yellow that early in the race. This year’s different and George threw his bike at the line but came up just short. This year there’s no pressure on Discovery to win the overall and that makes the yellow jersey easier to deal with.
pixelLast year Hushovd won the coveted green jersey as the most consistent finisher but will have a hard time defending it because Tom Boonen (12th @ 11 seconds) was leading and appeared invincible until he crashed out. Boonen’s on the best form of his life, as reigning world champion he’s winning just about every race he sets his mind to. In tough competition he is a solid favorite to win green this year. His team won’t be a whole lot of help but this competition doesn’t demand it.
pixelThere are 8 American riders in the race and 7 finished within seconds of the winning time. We’re going to follow these guys throughout the race. Levi Leipheimer, Gerolsteiner’s team leader and a legitimate contender was the worst placed of this elite USA group in 36th at 21 seconds.
pixelIn order of American rider finish: George Hincapie, David Zabriskie, Floyd Landis, (who finished 9th @ 9 seconds but came to the start 8 seconds late and counting) Chris Horner, Bobby Julich, Christian Vandevelde and the only USA rider out of it was Fast Freddie Rodriguez. (112th @ 38 seconds) He is, as his nickname suggests, a sprint specialist whose job it is to lead out his teammate Robbie McEwen a strong contender for the green jersey and my choice in the unlikely event Boonen falters.
pixelTomorrow’s stage is a pancake flat 184km (114 miles) stage that starts and finishes in Strasbourg. It dips into Germany for 30km and watch for the German teams T-Mobile and Gerolsteiner to do very well. It’s almost surreal how well riders perform when their national honor is close at hand.
pixelThere’s no better example than the French riders who haven’t been a force in the TDF in a generation or two; still they have their moments and generally on special days. Last year they won the stage on Bastille Day and had 3 riders in the top ten. That was pretty much the French highlight reel.
pixelBack to the scandal for a moment and Jan Ullrich who not surprisingly says he’s a victim but squashed any idea of a team protest encouraging his mates to exact revenge through winning. T-Mobile has some strong horses and without Ullrich the team will focus on Andreas Kloden who finished 2nd two years ago. Kloden is now a legitimate contender and appears to be on form.
pixelSpeaking of form, if all goes as tradition dictates George Hincapie will be wearing the green jersey by default. Hushovd is the points leader but he’s in yellow and will most likely hold on to it for a few stages. There are a couple of early climbs coming up but nothing he and his team can’t handle, especially with fresh legs.


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