Tour de France 2012 prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) won the 2012 Tour de France opening prologue time trial in Liege, Belgium, on Saturday, earning the right to wear the first yellow leader’s jersey of this year’s race. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins (Sky) placed second.

Cancellara completed the twisting 6.4km course in seven minutes and 13 seconds. The Swiss rider’s convincing victory shows that he is back on top condition after an early season blighted by injury and indifferent form after crashing out of the Tour of Flanders in April. It’s the fifth time that Cancellara has won the yellow jersey on the opening day of the Tour.

Wiggins kicked off his Tour campaign with a perfect ride – placing second behind Cancellara at seven seconds and already putting useful time into all of his overall classification rivals. Placing second rather than first also means that Wiggins will not have to deal with the pressure of being in the yellow jersey so early in the race.

Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) came third in the same time as Wiggins. Wiggins was six seconds down on Chavanel at the 3.5km checkpoint but picked up the deficit over the second half of the course with a trademark measured ride.

Brits Chris Froome (Sky), David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) and Steve Cummings (BMC Racing) all rode strongly, finishing within the top 20. Millar’s ride was all the more remarkable given that he had to miss Thursday’s team presentation due to a stomach bug.

Defending Tour champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was last man off, and finished in 13th place, 17 seconds adrift of Cancellara and a crucial 10 seconds behind Wiggins. Russian contender Denis Menchov (Katusha) also started his Tour well, placing eighth.

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) had a poor start in a discipline that still proves a problem for the man from Luxembourg. He finished in 136th place, already giving away half a minute to Wiggins.

World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) was another rider to suffer on the Tour’s opening day in Belgium. The German had to stop to change bikes due to an untimely puncture, and finished in 45th place.

The riders now face the 2012 Tour de France’s first road stage on Sunday, a 198km route from Liege and on to Seraing in Belgium. The finale features a punchy uphill kick and a cobbled section that plays into the hands of the classics specialists.

The stage presents the first test for Mark Cavendish. The Manxman has lost weight in recent weeks as part of his preparations and hill work ahead of the London 2012 Olympic road race on July 28 and may well figure in Sunday’s finale.

Wiggins will start Sunday’s stage in the green jersey, and American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) leads the best young rider’s classification.

Results
Tour de France 2012, prologue time trial: Liege to Liege, 6.4km

1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan in 7-13
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 7 secs
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 7 secs
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 secs
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 11 secs
6. Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 11 secs
7. Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos-Shimano at 12 secs
8. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 secs
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at 13 secs
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 15 secs
Other
11. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 16 secs
13. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 secs
14. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 18 secs
15. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at 18 secs
16. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 18 secs
17. Steve Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 18 secs
41. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky at 23 secs
55. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp at 24 secs
56. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 25 secs
65. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 26 secs
136. Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan at 38 secs

Overall classification after prologue
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan in 7-13
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 7 secs
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 7 secs
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 secs
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 11 secs
6. Brett Lancaster (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 11 secs
7. Patrick Gretsch (Ger) Argos-Shimano at 12 secs
8. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 secs
9. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at 13 secs
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana at 15 secs

David Millar

Edvald Boasson Hagen

Cadel Evans

Bradley Wiggins

Fabian Cancellara

Best young rider, Tejay Van Garderen

Back in yellow: Stage and overall leader Fabian Cancellara

Tour de France 2012: Related links

Tour de Fracne 2012: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tour de France 2012: Teams, riders, start list

Tour 2012: Who will win?

Tour de France 2012 provisional start list

Tour de France 2012 team list

Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs

CW’s Tour de France podcasts

Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs

Comment: Cavendish the climber

Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries

Prologue photo gallery

Tour de France 2012: Team presentation

Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce

Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage

Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule

Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
British Eurosport live schedule