Time Trial Specialists Clash with General Classification Contenders
Tour de France 2012 is designed for the time trial specialist. With a short prologue to start the Grand Boucle and two long time trials on stages 9 and 20, this year's Tour de France winner will come from the ranks of those riders with superior bicycle aerodynamics and big, powerful aerobic engines.
The 2012 Tour de France opens in Liege Belgium with a 6.4km (3.974 miles) prologue or short indiviudal time trial. The Liege Prologue course is flat, but technical featuring two (2) 180 degree turns. The prologue serves as a Grand Depart where each of the 198 Tour riders is introduced one-by-one with a violent individual effort, spaced one minute apart.
The Tour de France Prologue will feature two types of riders, Pretenders and Contenders. The Pretenders are time trial specialists who are masters of the race against the clock but stand no chance of contending for the overall Tour de France victory. The Contenders are those top riders who time trial well, climb well, and are vying for overall victory. Not only will the top Tour de France contenders want to do well, but prologue specialists, riders with high VO2 max aerobic capacity and the ability to corner and accellerate quickly, will also want to battle for the glory of wearing the first Yellow Jersey of the 2012 Tour.
First for the Pretenders:
Peter Sagan, the young gun from Liquigas, who won five (5) stages of the Tour of California and (4) stages of the Tour de Suisse including the opening prologue, is a likely winner of the opening prologue.
Fabian Cancellara, the former World Time Trial Champion who rides for RadioShack, rose to fame when he first beat Lance Armstrong in the opening Prologue of the 2004 Tour de France. He has a huge engine, knows how to ride a technical course and can be expected to finish in the top 3.
Tony Martin, the reigning World Time Trial Champion on the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, just won the German National Time Trial Championship and came in second at the Prologue at the Criterium du Dauphine. Martin tends to due well on less technical courses with long straightaways. Expect the World Champion in the top 5.
David Zabriskie of Garmin-Sharpe is the United States Time Trial Champion. Dave Z is probably the most aerodynamic cyclist in the pro peloton. Like Martin, Zabriskie performs better on longer courses, but he could have a top 10 finish at the Prologue.
Sylvain Chavanel, also on the Omega Pharma - Quick Step team, is the newly crowned French National Time Trial Champion. He often does well in the first week of the Tour, has worn the Yellow Jersey in year's past, and will want to do his country proud. Top 10 is a real possibility.
And now for the Contenders:
Bradly Wiggins of Team Sky is a superb time trialist. He came in second at the opening prologue of the Dauphine and won the long time trial later that week. Wiggins in on form and on fire. He wants this Tour win badly, and he will go for Yellow in the prologue. Top 3 for sure.
Cadel Evans, the defending Tour de France Champion riding with Team BMC, is a solid time trial specialist. He finished 9th in the opening Prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine, and he will be under tremendous pressure to finish in the top 10 at the Tour Prologue, which is expected.
Levi Leipheimer of Omega Pharma-Quickstep is among the most aerodynamic time trial specialists in the peloton. As a lighter and older rider, he will lose time in the turns, but still may show up in the top 10.
Dennis Menchov of Team Katusha is the newly crowned Russian Time Trial Champion. Menchov has been totally off the radar this year, but he will show up on form and ready for a top 10 Prologue performance.
Samuel Sanchez of Euskatel-Euskadi is not a brilliant time trialist, but he has a huge engine and a lot of motivation. Samu has a strong chance of finishing in the top 10.
Updated - Tour de France 2012 Prologue Results