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Prologue Winners and Losers

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When a million people flood the streets of London to see a bike race, you know it's a good day for Cycling. Most days we'll do a winners/losers recap, but today, given the circumstances and anyway it's just the prologue, there couldn't be any losers. Even Stuart O'Grady, whose crash made him the day's least fortunate rider, comes away with nothing more than a few inconsequential bruises and the knowledge that, if he threw away a chance for a stage win, his teammate picked him up anyway.

  • Fabien Cancellara is clearly the day's biggest star. It would be a pretty banal observation, except his win today was kind of a magical moment for the sport. We are watching a Patron of the time trials in action. Especially in the shorter and flatter events, Cancellara is turning into a rider for the ages. He even talks like a patron, predicting victory, declaring his intention to put on a show for the audience, etc.
  • The day's biggest winner, however, is runner-up Andreas Klöden. Not only did Klödi put 20-40 seconds into his rivals for the overall, he also did what I think is essential if he's to win: send a very early message to his team that he's the one. Sure, convincing the National Team of Kazakhstan to abandon Vinokourov won't be easy, but if he's to do it, he had to start right away. Mission accomplished.

To me this is probably the day's only truly intriguing development. IMHO Vino tried to pull a La Vie Claire by signing Klödi. In 1984, Greg LeMond finished third in his first Tour de France for Renault, causing the powers that were (Fignon, Hinault) to notice that they had a future Tour winner in their midst. Hinault, desperate to cement his legacy as a five-times winner, had just formed the new La Vie Claire squad, since he no longer had the reins at Renault. He brought LeMond on board, not only to help him but surely to forestall LeMond's ascension til after Hinault got his last win. That was the deal, LeMond helped Hinault in 1985 and Hinault would groom LeMond for 1986 and beyond.

Surely when Vinokourov brought Klöden to Astana, he had to think that maybe he was buying off a dangerous competitor. It's not like they were old friends. The problem is, no way can Vino count on Klödi to accept the pecking order. Regardless of the intentions, Astana's situation is not like La Vie Claire's...

  • Vino hasn't earned loyalty or subservience the way a four-time French winner would;
  • Klöden himself doesn't have his whole Cycling future ahead of him; more than Vino, he's in his racing prime;
  • Klöden has better Tour results than Vino anyway, though what might-have-been is debatable.
Anyway, forgive me if I sound like I'm creating a QB controversy, but this seems awfully intriguing to me, and today's early, decisive statement by Klödi really spices things up.
  • Discovery Channel put two riders on the leaderboard, and three of the top 15, narrowly missing out on the team prize after CSC and Astana. Also, Leipheimer didn't extend himself much, and Contador looks like a strong early favorite for the maillot blanc. Sure, it's only day 1, but it beats everything that happened last year.