Here’s a taste of how we called the prologue, minute by minute and rider by rider, as it happened. Come back to catch more of our live coverage, our podcasts and our blogs as the Tour progresses.
Welcome to BikeRadar’s Tour de France coverage! We’re coming to you live from London/Londres/Londen/Londinium, where our crack team of journalists is gearing up for the grand départ. Your web commentator for the next three weeks is Jeff Jones, formerly of Cyclingnews.com, which is now BikeRadar’s sister site. They will also have excellent live coverage of Le Tour at live.cyclingnews.com.
The 7.9km course for today’s prologue is amazing. Starting in Whitehall, it passes by the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, then goes past Buckingham Palace (km 1.8) for a quick cup of tea with the Queen, before heading up Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner (km 2.8). Then it’s into Hyde Park for a quick lap, taking care to avoid the ducks. The riders will exit Hyde Park just in front of the BikeRadar commentary position on Park Lane (km 6.3), before heading back down Constitution Hill and into The Mall for the finish.
It’s a fast, non technical course that will suit a power rider like Fabian Cancellara (CSC), but local hope Brad Wiggins (Cofidis) is in with a great chance of taking the Tour’s first maillot jaune. Others to watch today are David Millar (Saunier Duval), Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana), Christophe Moreau (Ag2r), Dave Zabriskie (CSC), Andreas Klöden (Astana) and George Hincapie (Discovery). No doubt there will be other riders who will rise to the top.
We like Astana’s Andrey Kashechkin – not because he’ll win, but because his name is great for headlines: Kash for honours, Kash machine, Kash in, Hard Kash, Kash cow, etc. You get the idea. The weather today is fantastic: sunny but not too warm at around 20 degrees. It’s also not that windy. There is a massive crowd here as well. I personally counted 7 billion people (give or take a few) gathered around Hyde Park Corner just now. Yes folks, it’s huge.
The first rider off today is Enrico Degano (Barloworld) at 15:00. He’ll be followed one minute later by Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval), then Daniel Navarro (Astana). The last rider to go will be Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), at 18:08.
Degano finishes his ride in a time of 10’21 – not bad, but it won’t be close to the fastest today. That should be more like nine minutes. Dani Navarro (Astana) crosses in 9’48 – that’s better.
Tomas Vaitkus (Discovery) comes in with a 9’32. Already the times are coming down towards nine minutes. William Bonnet (Bouygues) is quicker in 9’26.
Now it’s German time trial champion Bert Grabsch (T-Mobile) out on the course. He’s steaming along past Buckingham Palace in front of the massive crowd.
Grabsch ends his ride in 9’43 for third best so far. The top three: Bonnet (9’26), Vaitkus (9’32) and Grabsch (9’43).
Matteo Tosatto (Quick.Step) is steaming through Hyde Park now. He’s got the big gear turning and it’s hurting. Watch the ducks. And the roller bladers.
This year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Stuart O’Grady (CSC) is setting off from the start ramp. He’s not a bad prologue rider, coming as he did from a track background. He may be a top 10 finisher today.
O’Grady is up to full speed as he heads up Constitution Hill. The crowds lining the roads are amazing – there is not a gap around the whole 7.9km parcours, then it’s usually 3-5 deep.
Now the Sav – Paolo Savoldelli (Astana) is setting off.
And O’Grady has crashed!!! One kilometre to go, and he’s down. He’s back up, riding slowly to the finish now. He appears not too badly hurt.
O’Grady finishes in 10’13. He was on track for the fastest time until he went down.
Savoldelli, meanwhile, is flying through Hyde Park. He looks really smooth.
“There’s always something hurting when you come off at that speed,” O’Grady commented after his crash. “I felt good until one kilometre to go. Unfortunately my foot just clipped the curb and that was that.”
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) has set a new best time with a 9’24. He leads Bonnet by two seconds, with Vaitkus in third at eight seconds.
Savoldelli is a little off the pace as he comes in in 9’29. That’s five seconds off the pace of Astarloza. American TT champion and one of the favourites, Dave Zabriskie (CSC) is rolling off the ramp. He’s up to speed, hitting his gear shifters at the end of his bar ends to get into his top gear. Vladimir ‘Flying’ Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne) sets off a couple of minutes behind DZ. His mullet hairdo is flapping underneath his aero helmet. Meanwhile, DZ is motoring up the hill towards Hyde Park Corner.
Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) finishes in 9’41 for the 10th best time. He won a mountain stage in the recent Giro d’Italia. Zabriskie takes the turn into Hyde Park, hits a speed hump, crosses the Serpentine and turns back towards home. So many people!
He flies through halfway in 5’24, which is the quickest time to date.
Zabriskie comes up to the finish in a fantastic time of 9’22.98 – quickest time but only just.
What can the Magic Karpets do? He’s being pursued in the team car by his DS Eusebio Unzue. Karpets has his top gear turning well as he races back down the hill and to the finish. This will be close…
9’16.77. New best time for Karpets!
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery) is off for his ride, and he’s going well. Behind him his Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) – another horse. Flecha takes one of the first corners widely, but keeps it upright. Robbie McEwen is now under way, but it looks like he’s not bothered about a fast time.
Popo races down Constitution Hill to the finish. He ends in just over nine and a half minutes for 13th fastest.
Behind him is T-Mobile sprinter, Bernhard Eisel is racing up Constitution Hill to the BikeRadar commentary position. McEwen cruises up behind, enjoying the view.
Flecha, the arrow, is most of the way around the parcours. He’s going well.
Mr McEwen, the favourite for the green sprinters’ jersey this year, is crossing the Serpentine at km 3.
McEwen finishes in 9’59.15 for 54th. Not a yellow jersey winning time, but he’s a sprinter and will be gunning for victory in tomorrow’s stage.
Cristian Moreni (Cofidis) is on his way now. He’s definitely not a favourite to win today.
Eisel looks good and very smooth as he races past Buckingham Palace. Give him a wave ma’am!
The top three is still Karpets (9’17), Zabriskie (9’23) and Astarloza (9’24). We reckon that the best times will nudge the nine minute mark.
The wind is favouring the riders for the first part of the course, but then it’s a tough slog back home.Matthieu Ladagnous (FDJ) is home in 9’53.
Markus Fothen (Gerolsteiner) is out on the course, riding up towards the BikeRadar commentary position at Hyde Park Corner. He’s a decent young rider, and quite good against the clock.
Russian TT champ Vlad Gusev (Discovery) meanwhile has clocked 5’22 at halfway, the same time as his namesake and current leader Vladimir Karpets.
Gusev snakes past around Hyde Park Corner after exiting the park. We wave goodbye and wish him well on his journey to the finish. He’s now cranking it up down the hilll, and you can see the hint of a blond curl under his helmet. What is it with Russian hairdos?
Gusev finishes his ride in 9’15.99 – new best time!!!
So we now have two Vladimirs at the top of the leaderboard. That’s uncanny, that is.
Fothen is suffering a bit as he struggles on the homeward leg.
Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) is starting soon. He was once good at prologues, riding insanely fast to win the prologue in the 2001 Giro.
Fastest rider Gusev told TV reporters at the finish, “I was really motivated for this prologue and this tour because it was my first time. I don’t know [if I can win], it’s 54 km/h average. It’s really fast. So we will see now Fabian and Wiggins.”
Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) nearly comes down on “O’Grady corner”, but doesn’t repeat the Australian’s crash. He finishes in 9’23.17 for fourth. Close but no cigarillo.
Maxim Iglinsky (Astana) is motoring along, but doesn’t look to be going for the fastest time today. He exits Hyde Park past the BR commentary spot. Here mate, have a canape!
Now, possible best young rider Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) has set off. He is quickly up to speed in the first kilometre, passing by Westminster Abbey, where at least two trillion people have gathered.
Iglinsky is home in 9’38 for 17th place. That’s not too bad at all.
German road champion Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) is next off. Very fast too.
Contador goes under the arch at Hyde Park Corner, swings round and enters the park.
I have to say that this is an absolutely brilliant crowd and atmosphere for the start of the Tour. Let’s hope we see a good race.
Contador navigates a speed hump and his back wheel does a sideways flick.
Now Michael ‘Dr Teeth’ Boogerd (Rabobank) is on his way. Not really a prologue rider.
Verbrugghe finishes in 9’29.77 for ninth. That ain’t bad at all.
Jens Voigt (CSC) heaves himself off the start ramp, taking several big breaths before winding up to speed. He’s not bad against the clock, although he’s not really a specialist.
Contador finishes in a very fine 9’25.46. That’s good for a climbing waif.
The current top 5:
1 Gusev (Discovery) 9’16
2 Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne) 9’17
3 Zabriskie (CSC) 9’23
4 Gutierrez (Caisse d’Epargne) 9’23
5 Astarloza (Euskaltel) 9’24
Aha – now we have Andrey Kashechkin, the Kash man, Kash machine, Kash-in, out of Kash, Kash in hand, Kash ‘n carry, Kash strapped, outta Kash (sorry, we’re never going to get tired of this).The Astana man sets off for his 7.9km of fast pain.
Boogie Boogerd finishes in 9’52.83. That’s not going to get him a top 10, but this isn’t his thing. Watch him in the second half of Le Tour.
Voigt completes his prologue in a decent time of 9’38.24 that puts him in the top 30.
The Kash machine is going STRONG.
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) is a bit off the pace at halfway, clocking 5’31. His second half is about the same and he finishes in 9’33.41 for 14th. Still, that’s not bad.17:18
Kash flies past our commentary position in a blaze of cyan. He’s pumping his way back down Constitution Hill towards O’Grady Corner.Kash won’t be up for honours today though. He finishes in 9’25 for 7th place.
It’s still Gusev (9’16), Karpets (9’17) and Zabriskie (9’23) with the top three times. But there are some big guns warming up, like Hincapie, Vinokourov, Boonen, Wiggins, Leipheimer, Moreau, Cancellara, Rogers…
Hold onto your hats. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) is about to set off. He’s a superb climber but no-one will ever forget his Tour time trial of two years ago. That must have set a record for number of crashes and mechanicals in a single TT.
Still, once the race hits the mountains, Rasmussen will come into his own.
Fränk Schleck (CSC) sets off for his ride. He’s another useful climber.
Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas) has edged past Zabriskie for third place in a time of 9’23.
Inigo Landaluze is navigating the Hyde Park bit of the course. He doesn’t look comfortable.
Sylvain Calzati (AG2r) is also doing the Hyde Park run. He is applauded by the two long lines of fans as he races past.
Daniele Bennati (Lampre) is home in 9’33.63. He’s another candidate for the green sprinters jersey. Andreas Klöden (Astana) leaves the ramp. His time should be interesting.
Klödi passes in front of Buckingham Palace. He’s being chased by dark horse Brett Lancaster (Milram). The Australian has won a Giro prologue before though.
A streamlined Schleck twists through Hyde Park Corner en route to the finish.
Schleck is half a minute behind at the finish, which is well off the pace of Gusev.
Klödi is bunny hopping the speed humps through Hyde Park. Fantastic time at halfway: 5’14!! That’s eight seconds better than the Vladimirs.
Klöden is super smooth as he blitzes through Hyde Park and up to the BikeRadar nerve centre in Park Lane. Not far to go now for the German.
The Astana man slips back on his saddle to grab that extra bit of power. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s the best now. 9’03.30! Holy baby blue clad German, Batman!
Let’s see if the quiet American, George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) can best Klöden. He has just left the starting house… He came very close to winning the prologue in Strasbourg last year.
Top five: Klöden (9’03.30), Gusev (9’16), Karpets (9’17), Quinziato (9’23), Zabriskie (9’23).
Thomas ‘I’m not Erik’s Double’ Dekker is the next rider to go. The young Dutchman is very quick against the watch. He might crack the top five today.
Klöden’s average speed was 52.4km/h. That’s brisk, but I think it can be beaten by someone like Cancellara or Wiggins.
Hincapie is in the last part of his ride. He’s going well, and ends in 9’13.76. Very good ride, but only good enough for second so far.
Double Dekker is almost halfway, heading up Constitution Hill in a very aero position. He is shifting around on the saddle a bit. Hincapie is asked if he is disappointed at the finish: “Very much so,” he says. “I wanted to win. I worked very hard to try to win today. Second place is not a good thing right now.”
And now, the first of the big British favourites, David Millar (Saunier Duval) gets a massively big cheer as he sets off. He starts incredibly fast, takes the first corner past Westiminster.
Next off, overall favourite Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana). He probably won’t catch Millar.
Vino winds it up very quickly, with his all-black chainring spinning round. He takes the first corner well, not too wide on the exit.Erik Zabel (Milram), the record holder for number of green jerseys won in the Tour, is next off. Millar lurches around the corner onto Constitution Hill. We can hear the crowd road from here.
Tom Boonen (Quick.Step) is the next to go. He is super motivated to do a good time in order to set himself up for yellow tomorrow. Dekker finishes in a very decent 9’21 for fifth place.
Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ), french TT champion, sets off next.
Millar is looking very strong and rock solid. He’s right on the front of his saddle to get the most use out of his considerably sized quads.
Pippo Pozzato (Liquigas) leaves next. Vinokourov is riding very fast. Very very fast.
Brad Wiggins (Cofidis) is ready for the race of his life. He’s probably in better form than Millar at the moment, and races away!!! Again, a gigantic cheer from the crowd as he heads up to Westminster. Hello, Gordon Brown.
Wiggins has got the biggest gear cranking as he passes the Royal tent.
Meanwhile Millar is 11 seconds slower than Klöden at halfway. He’s not going to make that up, unfortunately for the locals.
Wiggins heads up the hill towards Hyde Park Corner. He’s still got the biggest gear rolling at a nice cadence. Now, Discovery’s Levi Leipheimer sets off. He’s well up for a podium finish in this year’s Tour. David Millar ends in 9’23.60, looking a little disappointed. But you’re only as good as you are.
Vino came through halfway in 5’22 and makes the finish in a decent time of 9’20.48 for fifth. That’s a solid start from the hard man from Kazakhstan.
The Wiggins boy is cheered all the way through Hyde Park. He’s coming up to halfway… 5’22, not quite good enough. Now he takes the turn and flies back along past the Serpentine.
Boonen’s thunder thighs carry him to the finish in 9’36. He’ll have a hard time making that up to wrest the yellow from Kloden. Or whoever wins today.
Wiggins is motoring back down the hill. Crowd goes wild.
Wiggins keeps it upright around O’Grady corner as he heads to the finishing straight.
Christophe Moreau (Ag2r) sets off steadily. His time will be interesting and perhaps a real boost for riders who espouse long socks.
Wiggins is here. He’s not going to win it, but he’ll be right up there. Excellent ride for 9’13.93! Just behind Hincapie, but well off the pace of Klöden. Wiggins in third, provisionally.
Neither Wiggins nor Millar will give British fans the yellow jersey today, but both have performed very well under pressure. Jolly good ride chaps.
Cadel Evans (Predictor) sets off, followed by the über-favourite Fabian Cancellara (CSC). Can he dethrone Andreas Klöden. Ja oder nein?
Triple world TT champion Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is off now. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity for this stage, but could pull off a big one. He’s followed by the last rider, Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne), the likely winner of the 2006 Tour.
Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) ends his ride in 9’35 for 33rd.
Cance, the current world TT champ, is blazing up Constitution Hill. He is very fast Swiss dude.
Moreau navigates the tricky section before the 1km to go banner, trying to keep his speed up. He is the French hope for GC for this Tour.
Cancellara is seven seconds better than Klöden at 4.5km (5’07). Hell, that’s fast!
Cancellara is looking at the best time today. Can he break nine minutes? He’s past the BikeRadar commentary position and on his way home. The motorbikes nearly clean him up on O’Grady Corner.Denis Menchov (Rabobank) finishes in 9’30. Not brilliant.
Cancellara is a monster as he sees Cadel Evans in the distance. Evans is home in 9’26 – quite good for the Aussie. Cancellara does it in an insanely fast time of 8’50.74.
I don’t think Rogers will beat Cancellara. Or Pereiro. That doesn’t leave too many contenders.
Rogers and Pereiro are the last riders to finish. Rogers comes home in 9’27.52, more than half a minute slower than Cancellara.
And now Pereiro finishes his ride in 9’27.67 for 21st. That’s decent.
The winner today and the first yellow jersey wearer is Fabian Cancellara (CSC)!!! The Swiss TT monster smashed the legs off everyone today. He’ll take the maillot jaune and wear it through tomorrow’s stage from London to Cantebury.
The top results:
1 Fabian Cancellara (CSC) 8’50
2 Andreas Klöden (Astana) 0’13
3 George Hincapie (Discovery Channel) 0’23
4 Brad Wiggins (Cofidis) 0’23
5 Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel) 0’25
6 Vladimir Karpets (Caisse d’Epargne) 0’26
And that’s all from the BikeRadar live commentary team today. We’ll be back for the first stage between London and Canterbury tomorrow at 11:00am local time (midday in Europe).
Did someone mention a drink?