Events

Tour prologue: Moreau in yellow

The prologue of any three-week tour is unlike any of the other stages. On Saturday, the Tour de France’s 21 teams were cloistered together in the parking lot of the municipal swimming pool in Dunkirk, with riders spending most of their day hanging around the team buses, warming up, shuttling back and forth from team hotels, and smiling for the media. Crowds gather around each team’s area, which is marked off by police tape. And judging by the masses gathered around the U.S. Postal and Telekom camps, there are two overwhelming favorites for this year’s Tour: American Lance Armstrong and German

Armstrong finishes strong third

By Bryan Jew, VeloNews Senior writer

Armstrong was relaxed and confident.

Armstrong was relaxed and confident.

Photo: Graham Watson

The prologue of any three-week tour is unlike any of the other stages. On Saturday, the Tour de France’s 21 teams were cloistered together in the parking lot of the municipal swimming pool in Dunkirk, with riders spending most of their day hanging around the team buses, warming up, shuttling back and forth from team hotels, and smiling for the media. Crowds gather around each team’s area, which is marked off by police tape. And judging by the masses gathered around the U.S. Postal and Telekom camps, there are two overwhelming favorites for this year’s Tour: American Lance Armstrong and German Jan Ullrich. At the prologue, though, the top French rider from last year’s Tour, Festina’s Christophe Moreau, stepped into the spotlight by covering the flat, 8.2km course in the fastest time of the day, 9 minutes 20 seconds. ONCE’s Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano was second, three seconds behind, while Armstrong and Ullrich were right behind, in third and fourth place.

On Saturday morning reconnaissance rides on the prologue course, the Tour teams were treated to wet, rainy conditions, which would have demanded caution from race favorites such as Armstrong and Moreau. However, by the 4:00 p.m. start, the course was dried out, despite gray clouds that still loomed overhead in the seaside town on the northern tip of France.

The reports coming back from the early starters were fairly consistent. The course was flat and non-technical, and the effort was all-out.

“They’re good corners, they’re good surface,” said Crédit Agricole’s Jonathan Vaughters. “I mean, you can go for it. Basically what I said to [teammate] Jens [Voigt] was if there was something to crash on in those corners, I would have crashed on it, because I dove right into it.

“The fact that I’m up, and don’t have any broken bones, means you can pretty much go for it in the corners,” he added jokingly.

Midway through the race, the clouds thickened and a few raindrops fell, but the expected rain showers never materialized, leaving the path clear for the favorites.

Armstrong got plenty of feedback from the teammates who preceded him, despite problems for Tyler Hamilton, whose saddle slipped downward shortly into his ride, and George Hincapie, who is recovering from a cut tendon and artery in his hand, suffered a week ago while taking dishes out of his dishwasher. Hincapie still finished a solid 23rd, in 9:39, but Armstrong’s best markers came from Norwegian Steffen Kjaergaard, whose time was third fastest of the day when he finished, eventually placing him in 18th place.

When the final starters began to cross the line, the biggest surprise was the time of 10:02 turned in by last year’s prologue winner, David Millar (Cofidis). The Scottish rider suffered a blown rear tire, causing him to crash in the second-to-last corner, just before the windy finishing stretch along the beach in Dunkirk.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez de Galdeano had set the fast time of the day, 9:23, which held up until Moreau, who started fourth from last. The Frenchman took heed of the early feedback, attacking the nine-corner, counter-clockwise course with reckless abandon. Over his 9 minute 20 second ride, he turned over a gear of 54×14 for most of the race and then 54×13 at the finish, and beat Gonzalez de Galdeano’s time by three seconds.

Still to come were Ullrich and Armstrong, but the German managed only 9:27, good enough for fourth, while Armstrong came home in 9:24, to take third behind Moreau and Gonzalez de Galdeano.

“I’m not disappointed. I felt good warming up, I felt good the last few weeks,” said Armstrong. “Moreau was one of my favorites, that’s no surprise today. He’s a French winner, and that’s good for the fans. And a good guy, too. He deserves to be there and … we’ll see.”

Moreau, who finished fourth overall in last year’s Tour de France, took a huge confidence boost from his prologue win, and the first leader’s yellow jersey of this year’s Tour. “It’s very good for my morale. It’s a great day for me,” said the Festina rider. “This victory is like a gift from God. I’ll feel less pressure before the Alps. Armstrong is strong, but he can be beaten.”

The Frenchman has been a prologue contender in the past, frequently close but never quite scoring the win. On Saturday, he said the key was just to be relaxed. “I didn’t expect to get the jersey so early. I just went for it. I felt very relaxed today, and had nothing to lose.”

Moreau will begin defense of the jersey on Sunday’s 194.5km Stage 1 between Saint-Omer and Boulogne-sur-Mer, which could turn into a tricky day if the rains that have hit the region return on Sunday.

“Every day can be dangerous,” said Armstrong. “Every stage can be dangerous.”

Results

1. MOREAU Christophe FES 09:20;
2. GONZALEZ GALDEANO Igor ONC at 0: 03;
3. ARMSTRONG Lance USP at 0:04;
4. ULLRICH Jan TEL at 0:07;
5. BRARD Florent FES at 0:07;
6. BOTERO Santiago KEL at 0:10;
7. BELOKI Joseba ONC at 0:13;
8. O’GRADY Stuart C. A at 0:13;
9. SASTRE Carlos ONC at 0:14;
10. TAULER Antonio KEL at 0:14;
11. KIRSIPUU Jaan A2R at 0:15;
12. MC GEE Bradley FDJ at 0:15;
13. WAUTERS Marc RAB at 0:15;
14. GUTIERREZ José Enrique KEL at 0:16;
15. ROUS Didier BJR at 0:16;
16. BROCHARD Laurent DEL at 0:16;
17. CASERO Angel FES at 0:16;
18. KJAERGAARD Steffen USP at 0:16;
19. HUSHOVD Thor C. A at 0:17;
20. EKIMOV Vjatceslav USP at 0:17;
21. GONZALEZ Santos ONC at 0:17;
22. JAKSCHE Jorg ONC at 0:18;
23. HINCAPIE George USP at 0:19;
24. KLODEN Andréas TEL at 0:19;
25. PENA Victor Hugo USP at 0:21;
26. BARTOLI Michele MAP at 0:22;
27. BROZYNA Thomasz BAN at 0:22;
28. JALABERT Laurent CST at 0:22;
29. DURAND Jacky FDJ at 0:23;
30. VERBRUGGHE Rik LOT at 0:23;
31. GONZALEZ Aitor KEL at 0:23;
32. BERTOGLIATI Rubens LAM at 0:24;
33. PINOTTI Marco LAM at 0:24;
34. KNAVEN Servais DFF at 0:24;
35. NARDELLO Daniele MAP at 0:24;
36. VAUGHTERS Jonathan C. A at 0:24;
37. MATTAN Nico COF at 0:25;
38. SEIGNEUR Eddy DEL at 0:25;
39. HEULOT Stéphane BIG at 0:25;
40. VOIGT Jens C. A at 0:26;
41. GUTIERREZ Ivan ONC at 0:26;
42. BERGES Stéphane A2R at 0:26;
43. JULICH Bobby C. A at 0:26;
44. PASCUAL LLORENTE Javier KEL at 0:26;
45. HAMILTON Tyler USP at 0:26;
46. GONZALEZ GALDEANO Alvaro ONC at 0:26;
47. TOSATTO Matteo FAS at 0:27;
48. MORIN Anthony C. A at 0:27;
49. NIERMANN Grischa RAB at 0:27;
50. HALGAND Patrice DEL at 0:27;
51. DE GROOT Bram RAB at 0:28;
52. BELOHVOSCIKS Raivis LAM at 0:28;
53. DIERCKXSENS Ludo LAM at 0:28;
54. SIVAKOV Alexei BIG at 0:29;
55. SERRANO Marcos ONC at 0:29;
56. VOGONDY Nicolas FDJ at 0:29;
57. CHAVANEL Sylvain BJR at 0:30;
58. CUESTA Inigo COF at 0:30;
59. PASCUAL RODRIGUEZ Javier BAN at 0:30;
60. LELLI Massimiliano COF at 0:31;
61. VANDEVELDE Christian USP at 0:31;
62. GARZELLI Stefano MAP at 0:31;
63. MAIGNAN Gilles A2R at 0:32;
64. MANCEBO Francisco BAN at 0:32;
65. DEKKER Erik RAB at 0:32;
66. ETXEBARRIA Unai EUS at 0:32;
67. VINOKOUROV Alexandre TEL at 0:32;
68. HUNTER Robert LAM at 0:32;
69. CAPELLE Christophe BIG at 0:32;
70. PEREZ Luis FES at 0:33;
71. JALABERT Nicolas CST at 0:33;
72. IVANOV Serguei FAS at 0:33;
73. AGNOLUTTO Christophe A2R at 0:34;
74. ODRIOZOLA Jon BAN at 0:34;
75. JENNER Christopher C. A at 0:35;
76. WESEMANN Steffen TEL at 0:35;
77. BELLI Wladimir FAS at 0:36;
78. VAINSTEINS Romans DFF at 0:36;
79. ORIOL Christophe DEL at 0:36;
80. BOUYER Franck BJR at 0:36;
81. KIVILEV Andrei COF at 0:36;
82. MAGNIEN Emmanuel FDJ at 0:37;
83. GARCIA CASAS Félix FES at 0:37;
84. TRENTIN Guido COF at 0:37;
85. BOOGERD Michaël RAB at 0:37;
86. PETACCHI Alessandro FAS at 0:37;
87. AERTS Mario LOT at 0:38;
88. SEVILLA Oscar KEL at 0:38;
89. SCHNIDER Daniel FDJ at 0:39;
90. BLAUDZUN Michaël CST at 0:39;
91. MONCOUTIE David COF at 0:39;
92. PIIL Jakob CST at 0:39;
93. VAN HEESWIJK Max DFF at 0:39;
94. BOUVARD Gilles DEL at 0:39;
95. PRADERA Mikel ONC at 0:39;
96. ZUBELDIA Haimar EUS at 0:40;
97. VAN DE WOUWER Kurt LOT at 0:40;
98. VERHEYEN Geert RAB at 0:40;
99. TEUTENBERG Sven FES at 0:40;
100. WADECKI Piotr DFF at 0:40;
101. MIKHAILOV Guennadi LOT at 0:40;
102. DEN BAKKER Maarten RAB at 0:40;
103. ZANINI Stefano MAP at 0:40;
104. CHANTEUR Pascal FES at 0:40;
105. BETTINI Paolo MAP at 0:41;
106. BALDATO Fabio FAS at 0:41;
107. LINO Pascal FES at 0:42;
108. SALMON Benoit A2R at 0:42;
109. RODRIGUEZ Fred DFF at 0:42;
110. MILLAR David COF at 0:42;
111. SORENSEN Rolf CST at 0:42;
112. DE JONGH Steven RAB at 0:42;
113. CASSANI Enrico DFF at 0:43;
114. MONTGOMERY Sven FDJ at 0:43;
115. BENETEAU Walter BJR at 0:43;
116. LAISEKA Roberto EUS at 0:44;
117. VAN HYFTE Paul LOT at 0:44;
118. HEPPNER Jens TEL at 0:44;
119. GARCIA-ACOSTA Vicente BAN at 0:44;
120. CASAGRANDE Francesco FAS at 0:45;
121. HERAS Roberto USP at 0:45;
122. ZABEL Erik TEL at 0:46;
123. LOTZ Marc RAB at 0:46;
124. MENGIN Christophe FDJ at 0:46;
125. RENIER Franck BJR at 0:46;
126. BLANCO Santiago BAN at 0:46;
127. RUBIERA José Luis USP at 0:46;
128. BERNARD Jérome DEL at 0:46;
129. SORENSEN Nicki CST at 0:46;
130. GOUVENOU Thierry BIG at 0:47;
131. CARDENAS Félix KEL at 0:48;
132. VIDAL José Angel KEL at 0:48;
133. JIMENEZ Eladio BAN at 0:48;
134. MUSEEUW Johan DFF at 0:48;
135. FLORES Iker EUS at 0:48;
136. TALABARDON Sébastien BIG at 0:49;
137. PRETOT Arnaud FES at 0:49;
138. HINAULT Sébastien C. A at 0:49;
139. ROBIN Jean-Cyril BJR at 0:50;
140. ETXEBARRIA David EUS at 0:50;
141. LIVINGSTON Kevin TEL at 0:50;
142. RINERO Christophe COF at 0:50;
143. SERPELLINI Marco LAM at 0:51;
143. BOTCHAROV Alexandre A2R at 0:51;
145. LOPEZ DE MUNAIN Alberto EUS at 0:51;
146. GUESDON Frédéric FDJ at 0:51;
147. BAGUET Serge LOT at 0:51;
148. STEELS Tom MAP at 0:51;
149. MERCKX Axel DFF at 0:51;
150. CHAURREAU Inigo EUS at 0:52;
151. SIMON François BJR at 0:52;
152. MENCHOV Denis BAN at 0:52;
153. BOLTS Udo TEL at 0:53;
154. CASTRESANA Angel EUS at 0:53;
155. SVORADA Jan LAM at 0:53;
156. BASSO Ivan FAS at 0:53;
157. MILESI Marco DFF at 0:54;
158. DEL OLMO Txema EUS at 0:54;
159. ROUX Laurent DEL at 0:54;
160. VERSTREPEN Johan LAM at 0:56;
161. GOUBERT Stephane DEL at 0:57;
162. CASPER Jimmy FDJ at 0:57;
163. FORNACIARI Paolo MAP at 0:57;
164. DEMARBAIX Sébastien A2R at 0:57;
165. TURPIN Ludovic A2R at 0:57;
166. TRASTOUR Olivier DEL at 0:57;
167. LARSEN Nicolay Bo CST at 0:57;
168. GUERINI Giuseppe TEL at 0:58;
169. ATIENZA Daniel COF at 0:58;
170. DESBIENS Laurent KEL at 0:58;
171. AUGER Ludovic BIG at 0:58;
172. VERMAUT Steve LOT at 0:59;
173. FRUTTI Matteo LAM at 1:01;
174. LAMOULLER Loïc BIG at 1:01;
175. CAPELLE Ludovic A2R at 1:02;
176. JAN Xavier BIG at 1:02;
177. POZZI Oscar FAS at 1:02;
178. LODA Nicola FAS at 1:02;
179. GARCIA Marcelino CST at 1:02;
180. BESSY Frédéric C. A at 1:03;
181. CEREZO Francisco CST at 1:03;
182. BRAMATI Davide MAP at 1:06;
183. NAZON Damien BJR at 1:09;
184. PIEPOLI Leonardo BAN at 1:12;
185. LEYSEN Bart MAP at 1:13;
186. PERRAUDEAU Olivier BJR at 1:17;
187. AUGER Guillaume BIG at 1:18;
188. BLIJLEVENS Jeroen LOT at 1:31;
189. DE WAELE Fabien LOT at 1:56;