The 2010 Tour de France got underway Saturday with an 8.9-km individual time trial through the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
Saturday’s prologue, which will be followed by 20 race stages, began when Spain’s Iban Mayoz Echeverria rolled down the starting ramp. He will be followed by 197 other riders, ending with last year’s Tour winner, Alberto Contador, also of Spain.
The prologue marks the fifth time that the Tour has opened in the Netherlands.
The course is relatively flat and seems tailor-made for riders such as Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara, who has won two previous Tour prologues as well as the first stage of last year’s race, when there was no prologue.
However, the 29-year-old Team Saxo Bank rider is racing under a bizarre cloud of suspicion.
Shortly after his impressive wins in this spring’s premier one-day races, the Tour des Flandres and the Paris-Roubaix race, news reports suggested that he had used a bicycle with a cleverly concealed motor.
Canceralla denied the allegations, but the world’s ruling cycling body, the UCI, said it would in future examine bicycles for hidden mechanized means of propulsion.
The prologue will also serve to evaluate the strengths of the various favourites for the Tour title, such as Contador, seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong and Luxembourg’s Andy and Frank Schleck.
The Tour ends July 25 in Paris.