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.