It’s begun. The biggest race in cycling is underway and the fireworks have already started. 2012 marks the 99th edition of the race with a route that caters to the complete rider. With over 100 Km’s of individual time trailing and no team time trail, the winner of this year’s Tour will have to prove himself against the clock. Three mountaintop finishes will give the pure climbers a chance to make their mark, but with the second and longer 53Km ITT on the penultimate stage, the winner will be someone who can time trail well. Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky is the favorite for the overall. His team is powerful and most of the squad was with him when he won the the Dauphine, Paris Nice, and the Tour de Romandie. Cadel Evans of Team BMC is also a favorite. The wily Australian diesel proved to be both smart and opportunistic in his Tour win last year and it always takes a bit of luck to win the Tour so Evans is Wiggins’ biggest threat, and vice a versa. The race began on Saturday with the opening Prologue in Liege where Fabian Cancellara rolled back the clock to win again at the site of his first Tour win in 2004. Wiggins blitzed around the fast course 7 seconds behind him and Sylvain Chavanel claimed 3rd on the day. Tejay van Garderen was a surprise 4th. The young American prodigy is likely the next American stage racer. For the Tour, his chief duty will be to support Cadel Evans, but hopefully he’ll be able to snag the Best Young Rider’s White Jersey in the process.
Stage 1 was pegged to go to a puncheur like Phillipe Gelbert but it was Cancellara who made the winning acceleration. Unfortunately for him though he brought along Peter Sagan and Edvald Boassen Hagen. Sagan pulled around the big Swiss at the line to claim the win. It was Sagan’s first Tour de France win, in his first Tour de France, on the first Tour de France stage. Quite a way to make an entrance. The overall GC remained unchanged.
Stage 2 was for the pure sprinters though. Andre Greipel was correct in his assessment that he has the best lead out train for the Tour. However, he had one World Champion Mark Cavendish glued to his wheel. In a thrilling finale, Cavendish just edged out Greipel at the line by half a wheel length. Matthew Goss was a distant third.
After three days of racing Fabian Cancellara is first on GC, with Bradley Wiggins and Sylvain Chavenel in 2nd and 3rd, both at 7 seconds back. Peter Sagan wears the Green Jersey with 78 points, Cavendish is a close second at 63. Michael Morkov wears the Mountains Polka Dot Jersey, and Tejay Van Garderen is the Best Young Rider in the White Jersey.
Tony Martin of Omega Pharma Quickstep and Luis Leon Sanchez of Rabobank are the most notable names already on the injured list, though both are still racing. Martin has a fractured scaphoid and Sanchez is nursing a bruised wrist.