France’s Thierry Hupond (Skil - Shimano) was the first rider and had to start under a grey, cloudy sky, at 12:10 Basque
rider Markel Irizar (Euskaltel - Euskadi) was the early pacesetter, clocking the first serious reference time in five
minutes and 32 seconds. The time of Irizar was enough to get second at todays prologue.
A slight drizzle started to fall as Jens Voigt (CSC), the prologue winner in 2005, completed his course in 5:39. Witt wind
and rain now on the menu, favourites struggled to match the early starters. Luxembourg’s Frank Schleck (CSC) had to
be content with a time of 6:02, half a minute off the pace.
American Tyler Farrar (Slipstream - Chipottle) crashed on the slippery tarmac. Unfortunately he risked a bit too much on
what looked like one of the day’s best rides and ended up crashing on a wet corner. Down but not out, Farrar managed
to finish in 8:41 with a torn jersey covered in blood.
France’s David Moncoutié (Cofidis), who was fourth on Pairs-Nice on 2001, was almost a minute adrift on 6:26, taking
no risks after his bad crash in similar conditions on the last Tour de Romandie.
The course dried gradually towards
the finish but not enough for some of the main contenders to be able to match Irizar’s time. Favourite David Millar
(Slipstream - Chipottle), winner last year in Issy-les-Moulineaux, was seven seconds behind Irizar, Bobby Julich (CSC), crowned
in the 2006 prologue, lost 12 seconds while Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), second behind Millar a year ago, finished eight seconds
adrift. Another favourite, Australia’s Cadel Evans (Silence - Lotto), was a lowly 36th, 17 seconds off the pace.
Uktraine’s Andriy Grivko (Milram), limited the damage in 5:36. and was eventually the best-placed under-25 rider,
eventually taking 8th spot. Among the other disappointments were France’s Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), who clocked
5:45, and French road champion Christophe Moreau (Agritubel), who relinquished 25 seconds.
Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) finally set the record straight in 5:28, avoiding a major sensation, Irizar having never
come close to winning a pro race, while Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) and Australia’s Bradley McGee (CSC) were tied
on 5:33, the German making it on the podium for a few hundredths of a second.
France’s William Bonnet, a team-mate of Hoshovd’s, took advantage of the circumstances to take a promising
5th place in 5:34.
Asked if it was a tough day for him, prologue winner Thor Hushovd said: "It was very windy, especially in the last two
kilometres, wit a lot of headwind. I managed my race well with the help of William Bonnet, who had a good ride, finishing
5th and was by my side all the time."
Asked if tomorrows stage will suit him, Hushovd said: "Tomorrow is a flat stage,
but the very last bit is steep, it will take a strong rider to win. I’m doing well at the moment and I will try to keep
my jersey. I already had a victory this season but to win the Paris-Nice prologue is an ideal way to start the season."
CSC's Bradley McGee came in fourth and is looking forward to the Mont Ventoux. "These short prologues are always weird
because they end up so close with tiny margins deciding the outcome. But I actually felt really good out there so I'm very
satisfied with today's result. It's a good platform for the rest of the season," said McGee after the stage, which was dominated
by some very indecisive weather.
"I didn't get any rain, but the roads were wet and I think it was the same for everyone,"
"I'm looking forward to the rest of the race and if this weather continues we'll need some serious
team work to get through the next few days. I'm also looking very much forward to the stage on Mont Ventoux – that'll
be a major test for the entire team," concluded McGee.