Riding his P4 time trial bike, Sastre was the top Cervélo TestTeam rider in the 180-rider field with a steady 21st position, stopping the clock in 20 minutes, 38 seconds.
Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara won on the demanding course to claim the Tour’s first yellow jersey with 19:32, but Sastre expressed his satisfaction with his performance, less than one minute behind his top overall rivals.
“Finally, after so much preamble, the presentation, interviews and press conferences, we started this Tour de France in a positive manner,” Sastre said. “The sensations on the bike were good, but just as soon as I started, a piece fell off my helmet, and this disrupted my concentration a little bit. Right away, I couldn’t maintain the position that I wanted.”
The 34-year-old Sastre was the center of attention in the spectacular setting at Monte Carlo, starting in the honorable position as the last rider in the 180-field. Sastre also wore with the No. 1 bib of the defending champion.
Cancellara barreled over the course to win 18 seconds faster than 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador. Olympic pursuit champion Bradley Wiggins was third, with the top 10 stacked with time trial specialists. Despite the hiccup with the helmet, Sastre said he was satisfied with his performance.
“The sensations were very good and I believe I didn’t lose too much time with the most important riders,” Sastre said. “I believe it was about 40 or so seconds to Contador (48sec) and the other more potent riders like Cancellara took a little more. I am content with the result, above all, just starting the Tour, which is what I really wanted to do.”
With all eyes on Sastre, the other eight Cerv?lo riders didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. Sprinters Thor Hushovd (120th at 2:02) and Heinrich Haussler (48th at 1:29) each tried to put down a strong time, but quickly realized that the opening climb was too much for them.
“I knew I couldn’t win today, but a top 20 would have been good. I just didn’t have the legs. I was blocked straight away on the climb. I think it was too hard for the sprinters,” Haussler said. “It’s special here to start in Monaco. My hands were shaking on the start ramp and my heart was at 140 even before starting.”
Tour rookie Hayden Roulston (111th at 1:57) said the setting in Monaco made the start of the Tour that much more special.
“It’s a great ambience here, everyone is excited to be in our first Tour de France. We have great sponsors, great athletes, staff and management, we couldn’t ask for anything more in our first tour,” Roulston said. “It’s amazing to be here in Monaco. It’s what you dream about as a cyclist. You have to pinch yourself to believe it’s true. I’m honoured to be on this team, we have two great leaders with Carlos and Thor.”
The 96th Tour de France continues Sunday with the 187km second stage from Monaco to Brignoles. The hilly stage features four rated climbs, including the Cat. 3 La Turbie in the opening 10km, providing ideal terrain for breakaway attempts.
The day’s final climb with 58km to go should provide the sprinter teams with plenty of road to set up their fast-twitch sprinters, with Cerv?lo hoping to earn victory with Hushovd.
Stage 1 Results:
1st Fabian Cancellara 0:19:32 46.08 km/h
2nd Alberto Contador Velasco +0.18
3rd Bradley Wiggins +0.19
4th Andreas Klöden +0.22
5th Cadel Evans +0.23