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There was always going to be a strange look to the top of the leaderboard after today's opening prologue time trial stage of the Tour de France. But even in the absence of Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Alexandre Vinokourov, few would have predicted that Crdit Agricole sprinter Thor Hushovd would end the day in the fabled yellow jersey.
Fifth in the Lige prologue two years ago, Hushovd beat a "very disappointed" George Hincapie by less than three-quarters of a second over the 7.1-kilometre course in Strasbourg. This pair finished four seconds ahead of a gaggle of riders, including last year's first stage winner Dave Zabriskie, Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang, Spanish favourite Alejandro Valverde, and Australia's Stuart O'Grady.
For a long time Lang had looked like an even more unlikely winner. The young German's time was not bettered for two hours until the bullish Hushovd hurtled through the finish. Behind the finish line, all the attention had been on the returning David Millar as the Norwegian flew in, but as Hushovd's time blasted out on the PA the media scrum engulfed the man in green.
At that point there were still 11 riders left to finish, including the prologue favourites. Valverde showed once again he's no mean time triallist over a short distance but was just outside Thor's time. Floyd Landis was even further out of the mix, but was soon admitting he'd had to change a wheel on the start ramp after noticing a slit in his tyre. This meant he started five seconds late.
The last three riders looked the most likely to outpace Hushovd. World TT champion Michael Rogers missed the mark by six seconds, Zabriskie by four, and then, agonisingly, Hincapie by 74 hundredths. After winning the green jersey last year without winning a stage, it was Thor's day.
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crdit Agricole 7.1km in 8.17 (51.429kph)
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel
3 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 0.04
4 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
6 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) CSC
7 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.07
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.08
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.09
10 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 0.10
14 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.13
16 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis
17 David Millar (GB) Saunier Duval 0.14
19 Chris Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 0.15
29 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 0.18
35 Christian Vande Velde (USA) 0.21
36 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner
38 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 0.22
Thor thunders to prologue victoryClose
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