Guess what day it is, people? Oh to be in Rotterdam today! Let the Tour begin! Live TV and Internet streaming begins at 11:30 am EST.
WHAT'S A PROLOGUE? The Prologue is unlike any other stage in a Grand Tour. It is a brief time trial. Each cyclist rides alone and against the clock. The purpose of the Prologue is to establish initial ranking among the many riders. It doesn't "separate the men from the boys," but it does give an indication of who's ready to fight for the championship. Some riders are specialists at time trials and this is their day to shine. Others will ride their best, but this format is not their forte. Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland is a favorite to win the Prologue.
HOW DOES THE PROLOGUE RELATE TO THE ULTIMATE RACE WINNER? The Prologue winner is rarely the champion of the Tour de France. However, if a cyclist intends to contend to be on the podium when the race rolls into Paris three weeks from now, he will do well in the Prologue and Stage 19 Individual Time Trial. Some cyclists are good time trialists. Some are good mountain climbers. Some are sprint specialists. Some are excellent at powering ahead of the group (peloton) for long distances. But to win the Tour de France, a cyclist must be good at all these aspects of the race. The Prologue gives a glimpse of the readiness of top contenders.
TIME TRIAL EQUIPMENT. The bikes, helmets and uniforms used in a time trial are different than what you'll see the participants use on every other stage. A time trial bike and helmet is wind-tunnel tested for the best possible aerodynamics. The uniforms and shoe covers are made of fabric to minimize wind resistance. Riders tuck down into the an aerodynamic position. The idea is to reduce every possible negative factor to maximize the power of a rider over a short distance. Is all this effort really necessary? Not sure. But it's the standard in time trial cycling.