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(Reuters) - The Tour de France began on Saturday in a near carbon copy of last year's edition, with the victory of Fabian Cancellara in the prologue and the promise of a showdown between Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong.

Switzerland's Cancellara is the time-trial world and Olympic champion -- the best active prologue specialist in the peloton -- and he made a point of clocking a perfect time of 10 minutes on the 8.9-km of slippery roads in Rotterdam. - Read more from Reuters....

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Prologue Results
1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo Bank - 0:10:00
2 Tony Martin (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia - 0:00:10
3 David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions - 0:00:20
4 Lance Armstrong (USA) Team Radioshack - 0:00:22
5 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky Professional Cycling Team - 0:00:23
6 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:00:27
7 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - Transitions - 0:00:28
8 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Team Radioshack
9 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Professional Cycling Team - 0:00:32
10 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team Milram - 0:00:35


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Full results here..




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Jersey Standings:
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Fabian Cancellara
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Fabian Cancellara
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Tony Martin

Links to news sites...

"Cancellara wins Tour prologue; Armstrong 4th
By JAMEY KEATEN (AP) - 6 hours ago
ROTTERDAM, Netherlands - Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland won the prologue of the Tour de France on Saturday, with seven-time winner Lance Armstrong finishing fourth.

Cancellara clocked 10 minutes even for the individual time trial along 5.5 miles of rain-dampened roads in Rotterdam.

"That was a great opening for me and the team," said Cancellara, referring to his Danish squad Saxo Bank. "It's an amazing day. I'm really happy."
Tony Martin of Germany, who had led for most of the day, was 10 seconds back in second. David Millar of Britain was third, 20 seconds off the pace and Armstrong was 22 seconds back.

Perhaps most impressively, the American edged out rival Alberto Contador - the defending Tour champion and top pre-race favorite - by five seconds.
Riders set off one by one down the starter's ramp for the race against the clock. Contador went last - right after Cancellara and Armstrong.

They took a looping course over and back across the Meuse River that cuts through Europe's largest port town, scaling three bridges including the distinctive Erasmus suspension bridge." Read more from the AP...

"'Spartacus' dominates slippery Prologue
By Jonathan Horn

This year's lap of France covers upwards of 3,500 kilometres but it kicked off with a slippery, helter-skelter, 8.9-kilometre dash.

The Prologue was conducted on the wide boulevards of the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, which was bathed in a sea of orange - courtesy of the exploits of the national football team the day before.

A fair few of the locals were sozzled but they were also soaked.

Rotter was the operative word. Every time the Tour de France has started in the Netherlands, it has pelted down. And today was no exception.

Rotterdam boasts a temperamental 'micro-climate' and in the half an hour prior to the start of today's stage, we saw a downpour, a burst of sunlight, some drizzle, a chilly wind and then a humid patch.

It proceeded to rain steadily for the best part of two hours, before drying up as the big guns set off. This meant that the stage was very much a raffle in terms of who copped the worst of the conditions. Bradley Wiggins and Andy Schleck were just a few who lucked out and posted disappointing times." Read more from the ABC...

"Contador not happy after time trial

To finish sixth in a Tour de France prologue, 27 seconds behind the supreme Fabian Cancellara, would please most riders, yet defending Tour champion Alberto Contador was not satisfied.

The result on Saturday was his worst prologue performance in a major race since 2007, and it was also the first time he has lost to rival Lance Armstrong in a time trial since the seven-times Tour de France champion returned to cycling last season.
"I could not find my usual rhythm," said Contador, the hot favourite for this year's title.
"My sensations are not great because I have not been riding competitively for many days."" Read more from the Yahoo Sports...

"Armstrong starts strong in last Tour
By Jamey Keaten (AP)

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands - Lance Armstrong could hardly have imagined a better start to what he's calling his last Tour de France.

The Texan placed an impressive fourth in the short opening time trial, shrugging off renewed doping allegations to dust several other likely podium contenders as well as edge rival Alberto Contador, the defending champion and prerace favorite.

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, the world and Olympic time trial champion, collected a fourth Tour prologue win and second in a row, clocking 10 minutes even for the 5.5-mile ride on rain-dampened roads in Rotterdam.
Armstrong trailed 22 seconds back in fourth. Perhaps most impressively, the American bested Contador by 5 seconds.

The American's solid performance was almost certain to brighten spirits within the RadioShack team on a day that started with new claims by former teammate Floyd Landis that the seven-time Tour champ was once involved in doping.

The 38-year-old sought to focus on the racing." Read more from the AP...