Rotterdam, Netherlands Lance Armstrong hardly could have imagined a better start to what he’s calling his last Tour de France.
The Texan placed an impressive fourth in the short opening time trial, shrugging off renewed doping allegations to dust several other likely podium contenders as well as edge rival Alberto Contador, the defending champion and pre-race favorite.
Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara, the world and Olympic time trial champion, collected a fourth Tour prologue win and second in a row, clocking 10 minutes even for the 5.5-mile ride on rain-dampened roads in Rotterdam.
Armstrong trailed 22 seconds back in fourth. Perhaps most impressively, the American bested Contador by 5 seconds.
The American’s solid performance was almost certain to brighten spirits within the RadioShack team on a day that started with new claims by former teammate Floyd Landis that the seven-time Tour champ was once involved in doping.
The 38-year-old sought to focus on the racing.
“In my heart, that was a surprise,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to have a decent day in the time trial, and I was not the best out there today.”
“But among the (general classification) rivals, I have to say it was the best one I’ve done since the comeback,” Armstrong said, referring to his Tour return last year after a three-year hiatus.
Armstrong came into the time trial predicting he wouldn’t win it, saying that he’s “lost it” in the discipline — one that he had dominated in his record run of Tour titles from 1999 to 2005.