By Nigel Wynn
Alberto Contador (Astana) underlined his pre-Tour de France form in style by winning the opening prologue of the Criterium du Dauphine in France on Sunday.
Contador, resplendent in the red, white and yellow strip of Spanish time trial champion, set a time of eight minutes and 34 seconds with a faultless ride on the short and punchy 6.8km course in Evian-les-Bains to wear the yellow leader's jersey.
The course evidently suited the 2009 Tour de France champion, with a 110m rise up to the category four rated hill of Chemin de Chez Constantin in the centre of the stage and a gently downhill, if twisting, run-in to the finish.
Earlier, Tejay van Garderen (HTC-Columbia) had laid down the gauntlet with a fast time of eight minutes and 36 seconds. One by one, the riders came over the line and van Garderen looked set to take a surprise win - until Contador crossed the line to spoil the young American's party.
Janez Brajkovic (RadioShack) came in third, five seconds adrift of Contador.
Britain's Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) put in a solid ride to place fourth, 10 seconds behind Contador. David Millar (Garmin-Transitions) ranked as one of the pre-stage favourites, and placed 13th at 15 seconds.
Monday's 191km opening road stage from Evian-les-Bains to Saint-Laurent-du-Pont features four categorised climbs, three of which feature in the first half of the day. The eight-day 2010 Criterium du Dauphine finishes on Sunday, June 13.
Criterium du Dauphine 2010, prologue: Evian-les-Bains - Evian-les-Bains, 6.8km
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana in 8-34
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) HTC-Columbia at 2sec
3. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack at 5sec
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 10sec
5. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step at 12sec
6. Remi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis at 12sec
7. Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini at 12sec
8. Patrick Gretsch (Ger) HTC-Columbia at 13sec
9. Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank at 13sec
10. Jerome Coppel (Fra) Saur-Sojasun at 14sec
13. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 15sec
Overall classification after prologue
1. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana
2. Tejay van Garderen (USA) HTC-Columbia
3. Janez Brajkovic (Slo) RadioShack
4. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky
5. Dario Cataldo (Ita) Quick Step
Tejay van Garderen took the early lead, but was pushed down to second by Contador
Janez Brajkovic in third
Welshman Geraint Thomas finished strongly in fourth
Alberto Contador on his way to winning the 2010 Dauphine prologue
Judging by today's performance, we might be seeing a bit more of this in July
Criterium du Dauphine 2010: The Big Preview
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