Paris-Nice 2009 prologue photo gallery, by Graham Watson>>

Briton Bradley Wiggins has come within seconds of taking the opening prologue of Paris-Nice. The Garmin rider was finally beaten by top overall favourite Alberto Contador.

The winner of Paris-Nice in 2007, Contador powered round the flat and largely untechnical course in Amilly to finish seven seconds ahead of Wiggins and nine ahead of another overall contender, Luis Leon Sanchez. (Caisse D?Epargne).

The 9.3 kilometre prologue was severely affected by bad weather throughout the whole of the afternoon.

But the rain could not stop leading favourite Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) from clocking a superb time of 11-24 early on. The Frenchman?s time stood for nearly over an hour, until Wiggins was 11 seconds faster.

There was no stopping Contador, though as he powered to the third stage win of his career in Paris-Nice. Finally Wiggins was second, with Garmin team-mate David Millar taking fifth.

Barred from the race in 2008 because of Astana?s doping problems in the previous season, Contador is clearly determined to put in a good performance on his return to Paris-Nice in 2009.

Already the winner of the Tour of the Algarve time trial stage and overall this season, Contador?s victory in the Paris-Nice prologue masssively confirms his status as leading favourite.

Paris-Nice was won by less than five seconds last year, and Contador?s third stage victory in the race has already put a small but possibly signifcant difference between himself and the rest of his rivals. Could Contador become the eleventh rider in Paris-Nice history to lead the race from beginning to end?

It?s too early to say, but Monday?s stage of Paris-Nice will begin to answer that question.

Stage one is 195.5 kilometres long, running from Saint-Brisson-sur-Loire to La-Chapelle-Saint-Ursin, and after a lumpy middle section is completely flat for the last seventy kilometres.

It should almost certainly end in a bunch sprint, then, but there?s always the risk of strong cross-winds and echelons in the early stages of Paris-Nice. After Contador?s strong start, his rivals will be keen to try to ambush him, and the Spaniard will have to keep his wits about him.

PARIS-NICE PROLOGUE: RESULTS

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana 9.3km in 11min 05sec


2 Bradley Wiggins (GB) Garmin at 7sec

3 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 11sec

4 Tony Martin (Ger) Columbia-Highroad same time

5 David Millar (GB) Garmin at 12sec

6 Joost Posthuma (Hol) Rabobank at 18sec

7 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick Step at 19sec

8 Tony Colom (Spa) Katusha at 19sec

9 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Katusha at 21sec

10 Remi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis at 22sec

GB

67 Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervélo at 47sec

149 Dan Fleeman (GB) Cervélo at 1min 18sec

Paris Nice 2009Bradley Wiggins: only Contador could beat him

Paris Nice 2009David Millar was a fine fifth

Paris Nice 2009Dan Fleeman

Paris Nice 2009Jeremy Hunt

Paris Nice 2009Alberto Contador takes the yellow Paris-Nice leader’s jersey after winning the prologue

RELATED LINKS

Paris-Nice 2009 prologue photo gallery

The Big Preview: Paris-Nice

Contador becomes quickest to complete Grand Tour set

Paris-Nice 2009 route unveiled

Cycling Weekly Rider Profiles: Index

Fleeman to ride Paris-Nice

EXTERNAL LINKS

Official race website – www.letour.fr

PARIS-NICE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Why Paris-Nice was simply a great race

Stage seven: Rebellin hangs on, Sanchez takes the stage

Stage six: Gesink sinks

Stage five: Quick Step make it three

Stage four: Evans above

Stage three: Flying Finn takes the win

Stage two: Steegmans back on top

Stage one: Steegmans rides the storm

Prologue: Hushovd wins