The 2009 Tour de France got underway yesterday with an individual time trial through the streets of Monaco. The Prologue was a short and fast 15.5km (9.6 miles) sprint that started with a steady climb and ended with the riders screaming back down the hill towards the finish line. At the end of the day, time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara took the stage victory and the famous Yellow Jersey, while the real contenders for the race, such as Alberto Contatdor and American Levi Leipheimer, lurking just off the pace. Lance Armstrong, making his return to the Tour after a 3 year layoff, finished in 10th.
Today, the race heads out onto the road, leaving Monaco behind, with a 187km (116.1 miles) stage through southern France. The route will pass through some rolling hills, but will mostly favor the sprinters who will be competing for the Green Jersey, while the climbers will wait for the seventh stage, when the race moves away from Barcelona and into the Pyrenees, where they’ll begin their competition for the Polka Dot Jersey worn by the King of the Mountains.
Over the next three weeks the top riders in the world will compete in cyclings premiere event. In total, there will be 21 stages, covering more than 3500km (2175 miles). The race culminates on Sunday, July 26 on the Champs Elysees when the leader rides into Paris with the Yellow Jersey.