Although confessing that he’s riding Paris-Nice mostly as preparation for goals later in the season,
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Defending Paris-Nice champion Bobby Julich had the best possible start to this year’s ‘race to the sun’ when he won Sunday’s 4.8km prologue in Issy les Moulineaux. Last rider off, the American came home a second faster than Liberty Seguros’ Andrei Kashechkin, with Brad McGee another second slower in third place.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins, who has been targeting this prologue all winter, was five seconds down on Julich’s time in seventh place, which put him four places ahead of recent Tour of California winner Floyd Landis.
World champion Tom Boonen will have his eye on Julich’s white leader’s jersey in the days to come. Always a threat in short prologue time trials, the Quick Step sprinter finished fifth and will fancy his chances of taking the lead given the time bonuses available at stage finishes.
Julich was surprised and delighted with his win, which came in a race that his not one of his major targets this season. “Paris-Nice is above all a warm-up race for the rest of the season. But this morning in training I realised I had the legs to achieve something and I told myself I should seize the opportunity,” said Julich.
“I came on Paris-Nice as the title holder, with the number one on my back and I also wanted to honour the jersey, but once again, it was not a major goal. But it the circumstances make it possible, of course I’ll be looking for a good result at the end of the week.”
Prologue, Issy les Moulineaux time trial
1 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 4.8km in 6.07 (47.08kph)
2 Andrei Kashechkin (Kaz) Liberty Seguros 0.01
3 Brad McGee (Aus) Franaise des Jeux 0.02
4 Alberto Contador (Spa) Liberty Seguros 0.03
5 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
6 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel
7 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Cofidis 0.05
8 Benot Vaugrenard (Fra) Franaise des Jeux
9 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto 0.07
10 Rik Verbrugghe (Bel) Cofidis
11 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.08