Cancellara upstages favorite Wiggins to win first yellow jersey of 2012 Tour

Fabian Cancellara dons the first yellow jersey of the 2012 Tour de France after his prologue victory in Liege.

Story highlights

  • Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland wins opening prologue in 2012 Tour de France
  • Cancellara finishes seven seconds clear of race favorite Bradley Wiggins
  • Wiggins gains valuable time on defending champion Cadel Evans
  • Tony Martin of Germany hit by puncture midway around 6.4km course in Liege

Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland claimed the first yellow jersey in the 99th edition of the Tour de France with a commanding victory in the opening prologue in Liege Saturday.

Olympic champion Cancellara is a specialist against the clock and over a flat 6.4km course underlined his domination with a winning time of seven minutes 13.46 seconds.

It left him seven seconds clear of the pre-race favorite for overall honors, Britain's Bradley Wiggins, with Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Omega-Pharma) in third place.

Team Sky's Wiggins had edged out Chavanel by less than half a second to take the lead before RadioShack star Cancellara repeated his 2004 win in the Belgian city with another powerhouse performance.

It was a welcome return to form for Cancellara, who had struggled in the early part of this year and made little impression in the spring classics.

"It's great. I'm really proud to have won here today eight years after my first Tour victory in Liege," Cancellara told Eurosport.

The globalization of the Tour de France

"It hasn't been the best season for me, but this really helps make amends."

Despite his defeat, Wiggins is left well-placed after the opening exchanges, gaining nearly 10 seconds on reigning Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, whose BMC teammate Tejay Van Garderen finished a promising fourth place.

Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda) finished one second adrift of Evans, the same time as Italian Vincenzo Nibali, rated by many as the main rival to Wiggins and Evans.

But Frank Schleck of Luxembourg, who finished third overall last year, lost nearly half a minute to Wiggins, coming home 135th at 38 seconds behind teammate Cancellara.

Germany's Tony Martin, who took the world time trial title from Cancellara last year, was left to rue a puncture, having to change bike and still coming home just 23 seconds down.

Sunday's first stage takes in 198km from Liege to Seraing, with testing terrain likely to rule out the possibility of a bunch sprint.

      Sports spotlight

    • AG2R pair Peraud and Romain Bardet (right) thrilled the French fans with their performances on the 2014 Tour de France.

      When will French win Le Tour?

      Whisper it quietly, but after years of foreign domination the prospect of a French winner of the Tour de France is more than just a mere pipe dream.
    • Steve Way leads the in the Commonwealth Games marathon with the favorites massing behind him.

      From 20-a-day man to 26.2 miles

      Seven years ago Steve Way was a 20 per day smoker and weighed a hefty 104 kg, but he led the marathon at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
    • The queen of the selfies

      After just one day of competition, a new sport has emerged at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow: snapping selfies with the Queen.
    • Joanna Rowsell is flanked by Australian duo Annette Edmonson and Amy Cure (right) after the medal presentation for the women's individual pursuit.

      Rowsell stands proud again

      Inspirational cyclist Joanna Rowsell added another gold to her growing collection in the individual pursuit at the Commonwealth Games.
    • GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - JULY 23: John Barrowman performs during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)

      Gay kiss steals Glasgow show

      At the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, an actor upstaged the Queen by kissing a male dancer.
    • Daniel Carter of the All Blacks in action during the Third Test Match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Yarrow Stadium on June 22, 2013 in New Plymouth, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

      Can the All Blacks make history?

      The All Blacks and their fans are focused on one thing, says Dan Carter: becoming the first rugby nation to win back-to-back World Cups.

      Three days with 'The Greatest'

      Photographer Danny Lyon spent three days with Muhammad Ali in 1972 and shares his best photos and memories of the champ.
    • SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada celebrates after scoring his team's second goal in the second period during the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match against Sweden on Day 16 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

      Can ice hockey go global?

      With a growing audience boosted by the drama of ice hockey on show in Sochi at the Winter Olympics, can the sport capitalize on its popularity?
    • The first cover star of Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, Babette March

      Swimsuit legacy: First cover model

      Her paintings may sell for thousands of dollars, but she is best known for a modeling shot 50 years ago that helped launch a business empire.