There are always clear winners and losers in a time trial, and today’s was no different. T-Mobile ca
T-Mobile: The German team will have reason to ponder the first 24 hours of their 2005 Tour de France campaign. After picking Jan Ullrich up from the tarmac before the race even started, the German team could only place two riders in the top 50 of the opening time trial. That’s a scary stat, given that the team TT is just three days away… (And Kloeden? He was 51st, two minutes down).
Iban Mayo: The former king of Alpe d’Huez has ridden like a man determined to earn the tag of ‘sleeping giant’ for much of this season, but today his performance was not so much dozy as comatose. Nineteen kilometres into the 2005 Tour, the Basque already needs a telescope to see Armstrong and Zabriskie. So much for speculation in the start village this morning that Iban the-no-longer-so-terrible was back in cahoots with the controversial doctor and one-time miracle worker Jesus Losa.
Philippe Gilbert: The 23-year-old Belgian, undoubtedly one of cycling’s most exciting prospects, already seemed somewhat downcast at the Dauphin Libr last month. It was by far the fastest race Gilbert had ever ridden, he said, and prompted the young Franaise des Jeux rider to predict that “I will never get to the level I have seen [at the Dauphin] and I will never win the Tour de France: training alone isn’t enough for that.” The subtext was clear, and, coming from a man who as recently as a few months ago was being touted as a future Tour champion, the admission was a sad slight on the current state of cycling. As if to illustrate his point, Gilbert, usually no slouch in time trials, finished in a lowly 165th place today.
Shimano: Armstrong’s pedal manufacturers were saved from disaster after the Tour champion pulled his foot out just moments after having come down the start ramp as he accelerated away – the second time it’s happened this season after a similar incident at the Dauphin Libr in June. Luckily, the American was able to put it behind him on the road to Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile, settling into a rhythm and pummeling the competition out of sight – bar Zabriskie.
Vladimir Karpets: Not content with having a post-cycling career idea thrown in his face every time he writes his name, the 24-year-old Russian rode a great time trial, coming ninth, which leaves the Illes Balears rider in a good position to defend his best young rider title that he won at last year’s Tour. True, it’s early days yet, and true, Swiss Fabian Cancellara leads him by three seconds in the white jersey competition, but, on the back of seventh place in the Giro, the spectacularly-maned Karpets must be feeling confident. Underlay! Underlay!
The Ile de Noirmoutier has never done such cracking business. Famous for sea salt, potatoes and erm, mosquitoes, the pan flat and tiny islet off the Vende coast, home to just 9,000 souls, swelled its numbers to breaking point as multi-national crowds poured over the tiny causeway connecting it to the mainland to see the Tour.