Astana’s Alberto Contador gave a glimpse of his form a month before the Tour de France by winning the prologue of the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Spaniard powered his way over the rolling 6.8 km course in a time of 8:34sec to beat American Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) by two seconds.
Van Garderen started 148th and took the provisional top spot with a stunning ride over a course described as difficult by many riders in the 175-strong peloton.
However Contador, starting second last, signaled his ambitions when he was clocked at four seconds faster than the American just after the halfway mark as rain threatened and the clouds over Lake Geneva began to roll in.
Contador, using a new, more compact time trial bike that he hopes will give him the edge over his yellow jersey rivals during the Tour de France, dug deep in the closing kilometer to pip Van Garderen.
In third place at 5 seconds was Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack), with Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) in fourth at 10 seconds.
The first stage of the one-week race begins on Monday.
And with the first two days of racing appearing destined for the sprinters or breakaway riders, Contador’s team said they won’t be going all out to defend his lead just yet.
“On paper the first two stages are destined for the sprinters, so we will just have to see what happens,” said Astana team manager Yvon Sanquer.
“But we can’t deny this is a really satisfying result for us, and for Alberto. He was really concentrated on this prologue, and his performance simply confirms all the hard work he’s put in improving this aspect of his racing.”
Contador claimed on Saturday he did not have the race form to be a contender for outright victory in the Dauphine, in which he came third last year, and said he would be using the race above all to test his time trialling.
A far tougher test will come on stage 3’s 49km time trial, and from then on the race will just get tougher as it heads into the Alps.
- 1. Alberto Contador Astana in 8:34
- 2. Tejay Van Garderen Team HTC – Columbia
- 3. Janez Brajkovic Team Radioshack at 00:00:05
- 4. Geraint Thomas Team Sky at 00:00:10
- 5. Dario Cataldo Quick Step Cycling Team at 00:00:12