Tour de France defending champion Cadel Evans has finished 17 seconds behind Switzerland's Fabian Cancellara in the 99th Tour's prologue in the Belgian city of Liege.
The opening 4-mile prologue is a short race against the clock, but gives an indication of the form of some key riders in the Tour, which covers 2,100 miles over three weeks.
It was Cancellara's fifth prologue, leading him to declare: "What a great opening — again!" according to the Associated Press.
"I did the most I could. It's not always easy. I always do the maximum," said the Swiss Cancellara, the world's best time-trial rider but not considered a Tour contender because of his performance on mountains, according to the AP.
"It's a great feeling and this certainly takes some of the pressure off," he said after winning in seven minutes 13 seconds at an average speed of 53 kilometers per hour.
Cancellara, also nicknamed “Spartacus” by his fans, also tweeted: "What a prolog... i am so HAPPY and proud. thanks for all the support and finger crossing. tomorrow gona defend it with the strong @RSNT team."
Meanwhile, Evans, of Australia, finished in 13th place and Bradley Wiggins, a three-time Olympic track gold medalist who crashed out of last year's Tour, placed second, seven seconds behind Cancellara at 7 minutes, 20 seconds.
"They tell me that Wiggins is the man to beat, so they say, but we'll see it on the roads," Evans said, according to NDTV sports. "Three weeks on the road is a long time, and a lot can happen."
Wiggins, the pre-race favorite according to the BBC, has also won the the Criterium du Dauphine, the Tour de Romandie and Paris-Nice stage races this year.
Other notable prologue finishes included France's Sylvain Chavanel, who according to the BBC "surprised many by setting a target of 7'20" midway through the prologue and his time proved unbeatable until Wiggins crossed the line."
The top-10 placings, as listed by UK Eurosport, were: 1. Fabian Cancellara; 2. Bradley Wiggins; 3. Sylvain Chavanel; 4. Tejay van Garderen; 5. Edvald Boasson Hagen; 6. Brett Lancaster; 7. Patrick Gretsch; 8. Denis Menchov; 9. Philippe Gilbert; 10 Andriy Grivko.
Another notable, 2012 Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal, of Canada, finished 15th, one second behind Evans, and equal with Italy’s Vicenzo Nibali.
The Tour began a day after the US Anti-Doping Agency formally charged seven-time champion Lance Armstrong for alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs. The American denies doping and notes he has never failed a drug test.
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