Welcome to the Tour de France 2012!

Prologue stage

Welcome to the Tour de France 2012!

This year's Tour is special for many reasons. For all of those who think that the Tour de France only goes on during the month of July, you are dead … right. Mostly.

Though the actual racing occurs only in the condensed period of one month, year-round events, such as training, team changes, crashes, doping scandals – and the Olympics every four years – cause dramatic changes for the eventual racing in July. Stay tuned for the highlights in the, very new, 99th Tour de France!

Stage Prologue - June 30
The first stage in this year's Tour starts in Liège, Belgium. A popular starting location for many Tours. The stage is 6.4 km, or roughly 4 miles, starting and ending in Liège. So, quite a small route, but not without its fair share of technical challenges.

Stage History
In 2004, the last time the Tour commenced in Liège, a young rider by the name of Fabian Cancellara began his ever-impressive career here. In 2004, in the first stage in his first Tour de France – a time trial stage – young Cancellara competed against the likes of Jan Ullrich and Lance Armstrong, and won. The stakes are high to see if he can do it again today, eight years later. Not only would this be a commemorative win for Cancellara (now considered a time trial specialist), but a win which his dispirited leaderless team (RNT) could use right now.

Time Trial

This term refers to a type of stage common in most cycling races, in which you are not competing against other riders, rather you are competing against the clock. On a typically very flat route, riders commence riding one at a time in a predetermined order, and race for the best time overall. Stage Highlights • Astana's Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) had the best overall time (7 minutes, 28 seconds) for a good portion of the beginning of the stage today.
Tony Martin (German) from Omega Pharma-Quick Step, is a potential threat for Cancellara. It should also be noted that Martin is a current world champion.
Mark Cavendish has lost even more weight this Tour. Just waiting for the bulimia rumours to roll in (ever a problem for young celebrities).
• Grivko's best time was knocked down as Brett Lancaster (Australia) of team Orica comes in at 7 minutes, 24 seconds.
• Lancaster moves to second when Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) comes in at 7 minutes, 24 seconds (beating Lancaster by hundredths of a second, not shown here).
Boasson Hagen is replaced by Sylvain Chavanel (France) who comes in at 7 minutes, 20 seconds from team Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
Philippe Gilbert, also a threat for Cancellara, as he is from Liège and will most certainly push himself for a hometown win.
Bradley Wiggins (Britain), or "Wiggo," is projected to try for the stage win today, as well. He has also lost more weight, making him virtually all nose.
Peter Sagan (Slovakia) of Liquigas, who was another favorite to win, came out of his petal. A mistake which put him back 16 seconds.
• Breaking news! Alexandre Vinokourov (Kazakhstan) from team Astana is back this year! He is one of the few remaining riders from the Lance years. Supposedly he was to retire last year, but I'm willing to bet that after the awful crash he suffered in last year's Tour, which forced him to withdraw, "Vino" couldn't resist coming back for one more go at the yellow jersey. Atta boy, Vino!
Tony Martin, arguably Cancellara's only real threat today, has run over some glass on the track and landed himself with a flat tire. He signaled to switch out his bike ASAP, but unfortunately lost an irretrievable 20 seconds in the process. He is now predicted to finish somewhere in the realm of Top 35. Such is the Tour de France.
• Chavanel has been bumped down to second place by Wiggo who comes in at 7 minutes, 19 seconds.
• Cancellara and Cadel are the last two to ride the stage.
• Cancellara hits the finish line at 7 minutes, 13 seconds! A whole 6 seconds earlier than the best time by Wiggo. Not even close.
• Upon watching Cancellara cross the finish line (looking like he'd just come back from a morning stroll), my mom was grinning, "he's ba-ack". (Cancellara is just back from a recent lapse in racing because of a crash which broke his collar bone in four places. No big deal.)

Jersey Lineup
Yellow Jersey (best overall): Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) RNT
White Jersey (best young rider): Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC
Green Jersey (best sprinter): Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) RNT

Top 10 finalists for the Tour so Far
1) Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland) RNT
2) Bradley Wiggins (Britain) Sky
3) Sylvain Chavanel (France) OmegaPharma-QuickStep
4) Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC
5) Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) Sky
6) Brett Lancaster (Australian) Orica
7) Patrick Gretsch (German) Argos-Shimano
8) Denis Menchov (Russia) Katusha
9) Philippe Gilbert (Belgium) BMC
10) Andriy Grivko (Ukraine) Astana

Notable Placements
Tejay van Garderen (USA) is a rider to watch! He is not only the best young rider now, but as commentator Bob “Bobke” Roll predicts, give him a couple of years to get familiar with the world of the Tour, and pretty soon he'll be bringing home the yellow jersey for America yet again!

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