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David Zabriskie produced a stunning Tour debut ride to win the opening time trial stage from Fromentine to Ile de Noirmoutier, as American riders dominated the day. The 26-year-old CSC rider recorded an average of 54.68kph for the 19km course, then endured a three-hour wait as rider after rider failed to get anywhere close to his time of 20-51.840, until last-man-off Lance Armstrong came in a shade under two seconds down on that mark having caught and passed Jan Ullrich three kilometres from the finish.
Zabriskie was the 19th rider to start the time trial, which was blessed with calm conditions rather than the strong winds that had been predicted. The 2004 US time trial champion was significantly quicker at the two intermediate checks than anyone who had gone before him, but it only became clear when he crossed the line just what a sensational performance he had produced.
Only Chris Boardman has ever ridden faster in a time trial at the Tour, averaging 55.152kph in the Lille prologue in 1994, but that performance was over a much shorter distance of 7.2km. A better comparison can be made with Greg LeMond's average speed of 54.545kph over the 24.5km course into Paris on the final day of the 1989 Tour. Zabriskie was a touch quicker than LeMond, but the result was the same: a quite incredible victory for an American rider.
Almost two hours after Zabriskie posted his time, T-Mobile's Alexandre Vinokourov became the first rider to finish within a minute of that mark, coming in 53 seconds down on the American. But until Armstrong finished no one else improved on the time set by the Kazakh.
Four more Americans were not far down on Vinokourov's time: George Hincapie was fourth (56 seconds down on Zabriskie), Floyd Landis was sixth (1-01), Bobby Julich 11th (1-06) and Levi Leipheimer 14th (1-13). But, Vinokourov apart, none of the pre-race contenders made a great impression, and Armstrong ended the day with a significant advantage on every one of them. The only surprise in Armstrong's performance was that he faded over the closing couple of kilometres and didn't win the stage. He also pulled his right foot out of the pedal coming down the start ramp, and must have lost a second or two there, but looking down the finish sheet tonight he probably won't regret that minor mishap too much.
Compared to some others, Ullrich didn't actually perform that badly, but his morale will surely have taken a huge blow after being passed and dropped by Armstrong, who started a minute behind him. It was clear at the TT's halfway point that Armstrong was gaining rapidly on the German, and the defending champion powered by with 3km remaining, Ullrich glancing to his right as he did so. This was a day Ullrich was supposed to shine, but he ended it almost humiliated.
What saved him from that fate was his beating of a long list of much-hyped hopefuls. Ivan Basso finished 20th (1-26), Santiago Botero 25th (1-30), Michael Rogers 45th (1-53), Andreas Kloeden 51st (2-01), Joseba Beloki 56th (2-04), Roberto Heras 79th (2-20), Paco Mancebo 97th (2-31) and Iban Mayo a disastrous 175th (3-14).
It's not race over yet, but this was very much the USA's day, and the impression is that there may well be many more to come in the next three weeks.
Stage 1, Fromentine-Noirmoutier en Ile
1 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 19km in 20.51 (54.68kph)
2 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 0.02
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile 0.53
4 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 0.57
5 Laszlo Bodrogi (Hun) Crdit Agricole 0.59
6 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 1.02
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo
8 Jens Voigt (Ger) CSC 1.04
9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Illes Balears 1.05
10 Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano (Spa) Liberty Seguros 1.06
11 Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 1.07
12 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile 1.08
14 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 1.13
18 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 1.24
20 Ivan Basso (Ita) CSC 1.26
23 Robert Hunter (SA) Phonak 1.30
25 Santiago Botero (Col) Phonak
26 Luke Roberts (Aus) CSC
35 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.41
42 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis 1.50
45 Michael Rogers (Aus) Quick Step 1.53
51 Andreas Klden (Ger) T-Mobile 2.01
53 Chris Horner (USA) Saunier Duval
56 Joseba Beloki (Spa) Liberty Seguros 2.05
63 Fred Rodriguez (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 2.09
79 Roberto Heras (Spa) Liberty Seguros 2.20
80 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2.21
82 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Illes Balears 2.24
97 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears 2.31
101 Matt White (Aus) Cofidis 2.32
124 Allan Davis (Aus) Liberty Seguros 2.44
166 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Ag2r 3.08
175 Iban Mayo (Spa) Euskaltel 3.15
183 Baden Cooke (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 3.36
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