Bradley Wiggins got his Tour de France campaign off to a perfect start by finishing second in this afternoon’s prologue, gaining nine seconds on main rival Cadel Evans.
The 99th Tour de France opened with a flat 6.4kilometer time trial through the streets of the Belgium city of Liège and today’s result gives some indication as to the physical condition of the main contenders.
Wiggins showed fine form as he delivered a powerful statement of intent. In the best shape of his life, the Team Sky rider hopes to wrestle the title from defending champion Evans and secure Britain’s first ever Tour de France victory.
It was only in the second half of the time trial that Wiggins looked to be in contention for the win today. Having been six seconds down at the halfway checkpoint, he lifted his pace to finish just 0.42 seconds ahead of Sylvain Chavanel, who held the lead for much of this afternoon.
Wiggins then sat in first place until four-time time trial champion Fabian Cancellara delivered a trademark performance, finishing seven seconds ahead of the Briton.
Cancellara, known as Sparticus for his powerful 82kg build, celebrated his forth prologue victory and will begin stage one in the overall leader’s yellow jersey tomorrow.
His victory seemed inevitable after reigning time trial world champion Tony Martin suffered a puncture. But the Swiss rider’s lead will last only a few days at best, since the overall winner is likely to be decided in the mountains.
Wiggins’ performance today cements his status among the favourites but closest rival Cadel Evans’ also proved himself. There will, no doubt, be the toughest of battles to be had before the Tour reaches its climax in Paris in three weeks time.