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July 2, 2005
Course: Starting from the ferry port at Fromentine, this opening time trial has a few twists and turns in the first 2km, then heads up a curving concrete bridge to the course high point 114 feet above the narrow strait between the mainland and the island of Noirmoutier. The next 11km is on a flat divided highway before a few final curves and turns into Noirmoutier town.
History: The last time there was a comparable start to the Tour was at Futuroscope in 2000, when the traditional 8km-or-shorter prologue was replaced by a rolling 16.5km TT. That time, a youthful David Millar surprised Lance Armstrong, beating him by two seconds. French all-rounder Laurent Jalabert took third, 13 seconds back. The only time the Tour has visited Noirmoutier island was in 1999, when stage 2 crossed the bridge and quickly left the island by the infamous Passage du Gois causeway.
Favorites: Armstrong is the favorite to take the first yellow jersey, but he could be upset on such a drag-strip-style course of almost 20km by an inspired Jan Ullrich, Brad McGee, Fabian Cancellara, Michael Rogers, Michael Rich or Santiago Botero. The prevailing crosswinds could be a factor favoring Armstrong.