The Paris-Nice kicked off early this morning with a bang. The short Prologue time trial in the outskirts of ol’ Paree were a picturesque setting for the 2012 edition of the “Race to the Sun”, with a number of Tour favorites testing out their form. It was Gustav Larsson with the fastest time over the 9km course with a time of 11:19. The big favorites that started later in the race were hampered with a rash of rain. Last year’s winner Tony Martin started in the worst of the rain and finished 25 seconds down on Larrson. Maybe even more importantly, he finished well behind teammate Levi Leipheimer, who finished third. It probably means the team will focus their support behind the American instead of the defending champion.

RadioShack-Nissan has to be somewhat apprehensive after the first day. Their Tour de France leader, Andy Schleck finished 142nd in the race, over a minute down on Larrson in just 9km of time trialing. Frank Schleck finished 121st, 54 seconds down.  The 2012 Tour features two long time trials in addition to the Prologue, and today’s results have to be extremely worrying, even if it is long before the Tour. They placed three riders in the top twenty, the best being Markel Irizar in 8th. If RSNT has any real interest in this race, race leadership has to transfer to Irizar, and the Schlecks can gain fitness by working for him. It may be great practice for them working for the likes of Fugalsang or even Cancellara in July, if their time trial skills are still pretty weak.

Team SKY’s Bradley Wiggins was one of the few late starters to emerge from the rain unscathed. He clocked in a second place finish just one second down behind Larrson. His closest teammate Richie Porte, picture above from last year’s Paris-Nice with Saxobank, is 17 seconds back and also in great form. Wiggins’ smashing ride gives him a leg up over many of the other GC stars, and Porte’s proximity and outstanding fitness will make other teams respect both of the SKY men.

A special nod to American and Michigander Brent Bookwalter finishing 22nd, a very solid ride for him and a great placing for his BMC team. Brent, you are truly an inspiration.