Tour de France30/06/2012 - 23:20 - Updated 01/07/2012 - 08:25
No surprises for Tour prologue
Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland will lead Team Europcar's nine-man squad for the forthcoming Tour de France, which gets underway on Saturday with a prologue in the Belgian city of Liege.
As Fabian Cancellara rode to a convincing prologue win in Liege it was a case of damage limitation for Team Europcar on the opening day of the 2012 Tour de France. Thomas Voeckler set the team's best time, 33 seconds down on the Swiss specialists over the 6.4 kilometre course.
Jean-Rene Bernaudeau did not expect any miracles on Saturday – and miracles were not forthcoming. Taking place over a pancake flat, and quite technical, 6.4km course in the Belgian city of Liege, the opening prologue time trial was one for the specialists – and not one for Europcar's nine-man squad.
RadioShack's Fabian Cancellara ensured that the opening leg of the Tour went to script with a solid win, seven seconds ahead of Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and France's Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Team Europcar's best effort came from leader Thomas Voeckler, who posted the 109th best time, 33 seconds behind Cancellara. Former national time trial champion Christophe Kern came home three seconds further back.
"We're only talking a matter of seconds. The time losses are not significant. In the high mountains this will mean nothing," said team manager Bernaudeau.
Voeckler's ride was encouraging given the last year's yellow jersey hero's recent problems with a knee injury. "That was the good news of the day," said Bernaudeau. "Thomas showed us that we can once again count on him. I hope that this encouraging result will give him confidence in the days ahead."
Pierre Rolland, Team Europcar's man for the GC after his superb 10th place last year and the white jersey, finished 45 seconds down on the impressive Cancellara, who kept up his native Switzerland's reputation for fine time keeping to secure a career 22nd day in yellow – more than any current rider in the peloton.
Rolland's ride did not set the world on fire, but the 25 year old did his best to limit his losses to his main rivals in the GC. "There's nothing surprising in today's result. Pierre must be prepared to concede these minor setbacks knowing that he will recoup time once the terrain is more favourable to his strengths."
On Sunday, the opening stage of the race takes the riders to the Belgian town of Seraing. Over a tricky, undulating and no doubt nervous course which will see many teams try to force a break, it will be necessary to avoid the kind of spills which always crop up at the start of the Tour.
"The course threatens to be a very nervous one," said Bernaudeau. "To make sure where we should be placed, we have ridden the final 50 kilometres of the stage together in training. The final rise to the finish is quite hard and pretty steep. Because everyone will want to be near the front, there is going to be a lot of danger. We have two objectives: avoid crashes and avoid splits in the peloton."
After a predictably low-key start to the Tour in Liege, the race for Team Europcar will really get under way on Sunday.