2012 Tour de France: The Weekend That Was

Two of the Tour’s 21 stages are in the books. Who should be happy with their first weekend?

With Fabian Cancellara sweeping up the Prologue win on Saturday and taking an impressive second on the first road stage, Spartacus has single-handedly saved the season for RadioShack-Nissan. The team still has a lot of issues going forward, especially concerning more concrete rumors that the Schlecks are working on a new German team for 2013. But at the moment, Cancellara is in yellow and should keep it until Stage 7, and with the long time trial next Monday, he could even ride back into it next week. Andreas Kloden looks like the team’s best GC threat, sitting in eleventh place overall at 19 seconds back. Frank Schleck lost 38 seconds over the opening weekend but remains a threat as the mountain stages still linger on the horizon.

The big favorite of 2012 is sitting pretty in second. Bradley Wiggins briefly led the Prologue until Cancellara set the best time, but the Briton held second and wore the green jersey on Stage 1. He’s just 7 seconds out of yellow, a spot that had some worried he’d ride into yellow too soon. Maybe the more important time is that behind him to Cadel Evans. A full ten seconds back, Evans will need time in the mountains to beat Wiggins. The Italian threat this year, Vicenzo Nibali, is 11 seconds back and Kloden 12.

The climbing contingent is clumped together just around 20 seconds back and includes the likes of Ivan Basso, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Robert Gesink, Tom Danielson and Alejandro Valverde. This bunch is good, but their Prologue performances doesn’t bode well for the two long, long time trials left. If they lose 20 seconds in a few kilometers, how much time will they cough up in 50?

The rider who might be most pleased with the weekend is Janez Brajkovic. He turned in a quiet Prologue and lost no time on Stage 1, just 22 seconds back. The Astana rider is ahead of a number of favorites and is in a great position for a final overall with a lot of stages left. Aside from a short piece from Cyclingnews, the Slovenian has kept rather under the radar in Belgium so far.

American Levi Leipheimer has to bit a disappointed at 40 seconds back. After an unbelievable Classics season, OmegaPharma-QuickStep is already having a rough Tour. Leipheimer is a long ways behind in the GC, though the long time trials are a great opportunity to salvage something. That burden may be all on Leipheimer, as teammate and reigning time trial champion Tony Martin had a mechanical in the Prologue and crashed yesterday, breaking a bone in his hand.

Chris Horner, too, is well back on the GC already. The team announced his spot on the team, but also made a note that he’d ride in support of Frank Schleck and Andreas Kloden, a role he’s already jumped into yesterday, moving Schleck up to the front heading into the sharp uphill finish. He’s 1:29 down and won’t get a chance to ride for a second career top ten finish at the world’s biggest race.

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