Reuters - Sat, 03 Jul 09:08:00 2010
The Tour de France prologue, over 8.9 kms through the streets of Rotterdam, is tailor-made for Swiss Fabian Cancellara.
The world and Olympic champion, winner of the last two timed Tour openers in 2007 and 2009, is peerless in this type of endeavour, barring unforeseen disaster.
The Saxo Bank rider, who has shrugged off allegations that he might have used an engine-powered bike in one-day classics earlier this year, recognises his own potential for the Tour starter.
"Honestly I think it mostly depends on myself. If I do everything I need to do I'm confident I'll take the yellow jersey again," Cancellara said before even checking the course.
Those who did look at the course agreed.
"It's not a prologue for me. It's all flat and straight with few changes of pace," said Tour champion Alberto Contador.
"This is for Cancellara or Tony Martin or perhaps (David) Millar and (Bradley) Wiggins."
Lance Armstrong, who in his glory days used to set the tone by winning prologues, admitted he had "lost it" in time trials.
"There's a long, straight line at the start and at the finish so it's good for me," said Germany's Martin. "The middle part is more technical but not too much. I love this course."
Among the prologue winners this season are Contador, who took the Criterium du Dauphine prelude, Wiggins, winner of the Giro opener, and Dutchman Lars Boom, crowned on the first day in the Paris-Nice.
Boom will hold his country's hopes 38 years after the victory near Rotterdam by Joop Zoetemelk in the Tour prologue.
The finish line is in Zuiderparkplein, near Rotterdam's big park. The most powerful riders such as Cancellara should be at their best on the two-km stretch which crosses the Erasmus bridge over the New Maas river.