GLORY: Swiss recalls win over Armstrong for inspiration
SWITZERLAND'S Fabian Cancellara is hoping for a repeat of his yellow jersey feat in 2004 when he tackles the prologue of the Tour de France here today.
Since his 02sec victory over American Lance Armstrong in the Belgian city eight years ago, Cancellara has become one of the most successful riders in the peloton.
A record four-time world time trial champion, the man from Berne is the reigning Olympic champion in the discipline and remains a dominant force in the tough one-day classics.
However a mediocre classics campaign has taken the shine off Cancellara's star, adding to the woes of a RadioShack team that have been devoid of major victories, the memory of 2004 is spurring the Swiss on.
With only three victories so far this season, including the national time trial crown, victory here today would more than make amends for the 31-year-old.
"Winning the prologue in Liege (in 2004) was the first victory of my career on a truly global scale, especially beating Armstrong by two seconds," said the Swiss, who since then has added four stage wins to his Tour tally.
"Hopefully I can do the same on Saturday. I'm not saying I'm going to win, but I will be giving it my absolute maximum."
Although only 6.4 km long, the opening prologue has been described as a technically challenging course that will favour big powerful riders.
"This course is one for the specialists," said French legend Bernard Hinault, the first man to win five consecutive Tours de France.
"It's technical, so you have to have good bike handling skills and be fast at the same time. There will be no hiding places."
Among Cancellara's biggest challengers, at least on paper, is Germany's Tony Martin, who last year succeeded the Swiss as world champion having won the final, long time trial of the 2011 Tour.
Martin, however, has played down his chance of securing the yellow jersey for his Omega-Pharma team, underlining his superiority in longer races against the clock.
"A lot of guys think I can win the prologue and take the yellow jersey. I feel good, but there are usually strong guys and I usually have better chances in the long time trials," said the German.
Britain's Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky is this year's favourite for overall victory.
But he cannot be ruled out of prologue contention having finished second to Australian Luke Durbridge in the opening time trial (5.7 km) of the Criterium Dauphine in June, four seconds ahead of Martin.
Liquigas rider Peter Sagan, meanwhile, will be looking to continue his impressive winning streak.
The versatile Slovakian won an impressive five stages out of eight at the Tour of California in May and beat Cancellara on the opening time trial (7.3 km) at the recent Tour of Switzerland where he won a further three stages. AFP