PARIS: Australian Bradley McGee surprised thefavourites yesterday by winning the prologue of the centenary Tour de France, a 6.5km individual time trial through the streets of Paris.
The opener of the world's most prestigiouscycling event was a disappointment for quadruple Tour champion Lance Armstrong, who finished seventh, 7 seconds behind the winner.
McGee, who races for the French FdJeux.Comteam, covered the course in 7:26.16, an average speed of 52.47kph, and beat out hard-luck Scot David Millar by a fraction of a second.
One of the favourites to win the prologue,Millar was five seconds ahead of McGee's pacewhen he had a mechanical problem with his bike, and was forced to stop briefly to repair it.
The 27-year-old McGee credited his team for the win.
“We have a marvellous spirit,” he told France 2 television. “What I did was because of the team.”
McGee said it had always been a cherisheddream of his to wear the yellow jersey signifying the leading rider in the Tour de France.
Armstrong was the last of the 198 Tour riders at the starting line of the prologue, which was at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and he was behind McGee's blistering pace at every intermediate stage.
Despite the setback, the 31-year-old Americanremains the favourite to be wearing the yellow jersey when the Tour ends July 27 in Paris.
If the Texas native succeeds in defending histitle, he will be the fifth man with five Tour de France titles and only the second, after Spaniard Miguel Indurain, to win five in a row. - dpa
Ullrich began the season with Team Coast, butthey had their licence withdrawn in May for nonpayment of riders’ salaries and Italian bicycle manufacturers Bianchi took over.
“It’s never easy changing teams mid-season.We had some problems but in the end I think it was a good thing that Bianchi took over,” Ullrich told a news conference on Friday.
“In the team we all get on well and we’ve raced together quite a bit now. We’re all very motivated and I’m sure we’ll do well. As a new team we have the advantage that we don’t have to prove anything to anybody.”
The German missed last year’s race because ofa knee injury and was then banned for sixmonths after taking amphetamines, only returning to competition in April. – Agencies