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Alejandro Valverde, wearing the white jersey of the ProTour leader on his 26th birthday, was denied his third consecutive victory when Paolo Savoldelli came in 64 hundredths of a second quicker than the Spaniard to take the 3.4km prologue of the Tour of Romandy on Tuesday evening in Geneva.
The twisting course didn't really suit the specialists, especially those who went off early and had to cope with damp conditions that made cornering treacherous. Among those who were well off the pace was Jan Ullrich, making his first competitive appearance of the season. Ullrich was eventually placed 90th, 26 seconds down on Savoldelli.
"I didn't take any risks on this technically demanding course and am content with my performance," he said. "It was fun doing these first race kilometres." His T-Mobile directeur sportif, Rudy Pevenage, said Ullrich's only goal at Romandy was to get in some racing miles.
That was clearly not the case for Valverde and Savoldelli, who gave the tricky course everything. Valverde lopped more than three seconds off the time set by previous Romandy prologue winner Brad McGee, who was riding a new time trial bike for the first time. Just when it seemed Valverde, who has yet to win a time trial in his pro career, might add the Romandy opener to previous wins in Flche Wallonne and Lige-Bastogne-Lige, Savoldelli stormed through to record his third prologue win at Romandy.
Wednesday's stage should suit the sprinters, and Robbie McEwen looks well set for it after a strong prologue performance.
1 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 3.4km in 4.27 (45.84kph)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.01
3 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 0.04
4 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.07
5 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crdit Agricole
6 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) Lampre 0.09
7 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel
8 Laurent Lefvre (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
9 Andreas Dietziker (Swi) LPR
10 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
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