Four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara stuck to tradition by winning the prologue time trial at the Tour de Suisse on Saturday.
Cancellara has won the race’s opening time trial four times previously and did not disappoint the thousands of fans who lined scenic Lake Lugano by finishing the hilly 7.3 km course in nine minutes and 41.8 seconds.
American Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) finished second with Slovakian Peter Sagan (Liquigas) third.
“I’m very happy because I was feeling a little bit nervous before the start. I saw that there was almost double the number of spectators compared to last year,” said Cancellara.
“I had two big fears today: suffering a mechanical problem and having to do the downhill section like a man possessed. It’s a bit like doing a hard downhill in skiing — you have to stay in control while taking risks and not losing any speed.”
Cancellara did come close to suffering a mechanical problem, the Swiss starting the race in jittery fashion when he experienced a minor problem with his electronic gear shifters.
However, unlike teammate Andy Schleck — who had to change bikes due to a mechanical problem and finished 1:18 off the pace — it was a blip on an otherwise commanding performance.
Leopard-Trek’s Fränk Schleck is the reigning champion in the nine-stage event, which in its 75th edition has been toughened by organizers to the extent that Cancellara, the champion in 2009, has ruled himself out of overall victory.
Instead, the Swiss was expected to win both the opening and the closing time trials, and kept his employers happy by fulfilling the first task.
Cancellara had won the opening time trial or prologue of the race in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010, and thus was the logical pre-stage favorite.
Although the course featured a twisting climb of just over 2km after a 1km warm-up on the flat, the big Swiss fared not too badly by the time he reached the race’s only intermediate point at the 3km mark.
RadioShack’s Andreas Klöden, one of the few riders who on paper looks capable of challenging Schleck for overall victory, topped the times at the summit; however, Cancellara was less than two seconds adrift.
Wearing his world time trial champion’s rainbow jersey, Cancellara then powered down the descent towards the finish line where his winning time pushed provisional leader Van Garderen down a place.
Saxo Bank’s Swedish specialist Gustav Larsson finished fourth, also at 17 seconds adrift, with Klöden fifth at 18, two seconds ahead of American Tom Danielson (Garmin-Cervélo) and four seconds ahead of American teammate Levi Leipheimer.
By the time Schleck was halfway through his race the wind had picked up and rain had started to fall, forcing the Luxembourger to lessen the risk-taking.
He eventually finished 62nd, 41 seconds off the winning pace of his Leopard-Trek teammate, who will now wear the leader’s yellow jersey into Sunday’s 149km second stage from Airolo.
It is the first of five climbing stages and will begin with a 20km ascent to the summit of to the race’s highest point, the Col du Nufenen at 2478 meters above sea level, before finishing in Crans-Montana.
The race finishes Sunday June 19 with a 32.1 km time trial around Schaffhouse.
- 1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI), Leopard-Trek, 9:41
- 2. Tejay Van Garderen (USA), HTC-Highroad, at 0:09
- 3. Peter Sagan (SVK), Liquigas-Cannondale, at 0:17
- 4. Gustav Larsson (SWE), Saxobank-Sungard, at 0:17
- 5. Andreas Klöden (GER), Team RadioShack, at 0:18
- 6. Thomas Danielson (USA), Garmin-Cervelo, at 0:20
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Fabian Cancellara
Fabian Cancellara thrilled fans at the start of the prologue. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Lugano
The town of Lugano, a nice spot to kick off the 2011 Tour de Suisse. Bad coffee but efficient trains. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, fans
Fans wait for Cancellara to hit the podium on the shores of lake Lugano. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, kids
These kids tracked down Cancellara after the prologue and enjoyed watching him change his shoes through his van's tinted windows. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Fabian Cancellara
Cancellara at 400 meters out. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Fränk Schleck
Fränk Schleck had a smile on his face after the prologue. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Andy Schleck
Andy Schleck's TT was a conservative effort, especially after a mechanical forced a bike swap. He looked quite fit at check-in. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish gets released at the prologue start. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Alexander Pliuschin
Alexander Pliuschin won the "most chilled out" in the ITT tent award. This was taken just minutes before his start. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
Tour de 2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Rubens Bertogliati
Rubens Bertogliati from Team Type 1 is from Lugano and was popular with fans. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
Tour de 2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, Fränk Schleck's derailleur
I wonder if Fränk Schleck knows that a curious Swiss fan was poking a pencil in his derailleur (to count the gears) just a few hours before he was due to start. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
Tour de 2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, free cheese
At the Tour de Suisse, fans get packaged cheese hand-outs from promo cars before the prologue start. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com
Tour de 2011 Tour de Suisse, prologue, rigged for heavy weather
Rain threatened at the prologue early on. Fortunately, the skies cleared and the sun came out for the majority of the riders. This little fan was prepared either way. Photo: Gregg Bleakney | www.gbleakney.com