Alberto Contador layed down a significant marker yesterday not only for the rest of the peloton, but for the rest of his team too. Contador spent time this winter working on his time trial technique in a Californian wind tunnel – it obviously paid off.
Even so, his victory in the opening time trial prologue of Paris Nice was both emphatic and unexpected and underlines that this already formidable climber is still developing as a rider – turning what were perceived to be his weaknesses into strengths… who does that remind you of?
It had been thought that the short 9.3KM course aournd Amilly would be meat and drink to Britain's Olympic pursuit champion Bradly Wiggins (Garmin Slipstream), but as it turned out he had to settle for second place in a time of 11mins 13s, seven seconds back on Contador and two seconds ahead of the Spaniard Luis, Leon Sanchez (Caisse d'Epargne), Wiggins' teamate David Millar finished in fifth place 14 seconds down on Contador.
The pre-race favourites Cadel Evans, Rinaldo Nocentini (last year's overall runner up) and Frank Schleck all finished over thirty seconds down on Contador. The young Spaniard won Paris-Nice two years ago and followed that up with victory in the Tour de France a few months later. He was unable to defend either titles last year when Tour organisers ASO said his team, Astana, were not welcome at any of their races (such as Paris-Nice) that season.
After his win Contador was adamant that the result was “not a message to Lance Armstrong” but in a sport where your wheels do the talking whatever Contador does is a message to Lance Armstrong. One the Texan will no doubt spend a great deal of time pondering – while Armstrong's comeback performances have been solidly impressive so far Contador's form has has been ominously so. Armstrong's next race is Milan-San Remo on the 21st of March and the two will ride 'together' a couple of days later in the five day Tour of Castille-Leon.
Today's second stage is a 195.5km route from Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to La-Chapelle-Saint-Ursin
Top 10 Paris-Nice Prologue
1. Alberto Contador, (ESP), Astana, 11 minutes, 06 seconds.
2. Bradley Wiggins, (GBR), Garmin-Slipstream, 7 seconds behind.
3. Luis Leon Sanchez, (ESP), Caisse d'Epargne, :09.
4. Tony Martin, (DEU), Team Columbia-High Road, :11.
5. David Millar, (DEU), Garmin-Slipstream, :14.
6. Joost Posthuma, (NED), Rabobank, :18.
7. Sylvain Chavanel, (FR), Quick Step, :19.
8. Antonio Colom, (ESP), Team Katusha, same time.
9. Vladimir Karpets, (RUS), Team Katusha, :21.
10. Remi Pauriol, (FR), Cofidis, :22.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.