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Originally published Saturday, June 30, 2012 at 5:56 PM

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Fabian Cancellara off to blazing start in Tour de France

Fabian Cancellara, a Swiss time-trial specialist, won the prologue by a convincing margin, with Tacoma-born Tejay van Garderen fourth, 10 seconds behind.

Contenders

Some of the top contenders at the Tour de France, which concludes July 22:

Cadel Evans

35, Australia, BMC Racing Team: The defending champion and twice runner-up has every chance of repeating.

Bradley Wiggins

32, Britain, Team Sky: Britain's best hope for a Tour champion since Wiggins' childhood idol, Tom Simpson, died on the slopes of Mount Ventoux in 1967.

Robert Gesink

26, Netherlands, Rabobank: "The Condor of Varsseveld" will lead the Dutch team.

Others to watch

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Belgium), Ryder Hesjedal (Canada), Tony Martin (Germany), Levi Leipheimer (United States), Vincenzo Nibali (Italy).

The Associated Press

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LIEGE, Belgium — Fabian Cancellara gave some joy to his troubled Radio-

Shack Nissan team as the 99th Tour de France began on Saturday, winning his fifth opening-day prologue at cycling's premier race.

In the Belgian city where he edged Lance Armstrong in a prologue eight years ago, the 31-year-old Swiss rider proved he's positively dominant in time trials, taking the 4-mile race against the clock by 7 seconds.

Bradley Wiggins, aiming to become the first Briton to win the Tour, was second.

Australian Cadel Evans embarked on his title defense in solid form, finishing 13th. He was 10 seconds behind Wiggins, who many see as Evans' main threat. Cancellara is unquestionably the world's best time-trial rider, but isn't considered a Tour contender because he struggles in the mountains.

"What a great opening — again!" Cancellara said. "I did the most I could."

The Tour start offered a welcome return to racing. The three-week race covers 2,168 miles, crisscrossing France, nosing into Switzerland and scaling the Alps and Pyrenees before the July 22 finish on Paris' Champs-Elysees.

RadioShack, built on the remains of teams that Armstrong led to a record seven Tour victories, has faced a rough patch.

Its current leader, Andy Schleck, is staying home to nurse a spinal injury after a crash this month. And team manager Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong's longtime mentor, is staying away to avoid being a distraction. A U.S. anti-doping case has targeted Bruyneel, Armstrong and four others.

Wiggins, a three-time Olympic champ, said he wasn't surprised he was beaten by Cancellara in the prologue.

"He is the best in the world" in time trials, Wiggins said.

Evans, too, was satisfied.

"It's, like, 6 kilometers out of 3,500 or so. ... For me the real racing starts tomorrow," Evans said.

Van Garderen

takes white jersey

LIEGE, Belgium — Tacoma-born Tejay van Garderen lived up to his billing as one of American cycling's top young talents with an explosive prologue performance.

The 23-year-old van Garderen, who grew up mostly in Bozeman, Mont., finished fourth, just 10 seconds behind Cancellara.

That was good enough to net him the white jersey, worn by the highest placed rider under age 25. Last year, the BMC rider wore the polka-dot climber's jersey for one stage in his first Tour de France.

Van Garderen couldn't stop smiling after the race.

"I've got chills, I can't wait to get up there and get it," van Garderen said before climbing the podium to don the race's first white jersey.

He is the youngest of the eight U.S. riders in this year's Tour.

The only Americans to wear the Tour's white jersey at the race's conclusion are Greg LeMond in 1984 and Andy Hampsten in 1986.

Notes

• Cancellara's 22nd day in yellow equaled the marks of other Tour greats including three-time champion LeMond, two-time winner Laurent Fignon of France and Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk.

• Van Garderen's BMC teammate, George Hincapie, set a record by starting his 17th and last Tour. Hincapie, 39, will retire in August. He placed 22nd in the prologue.

• Wenatchee sprint specialist Tyler Farrar of the Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda team was 30th, 21 seconds back.

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