Tejay van Garderen's fourth place in the Tour de France prologue was a handy boost for Cadel Evans' title defence.
Whatever misgivings Evans had about losing 10 seconds to British rival Brad Wiggins, he would have been rapt to see van Garderen in such strong form. BMC recruited van Garderen specifically as a crucial "domestique", or helper, for Evans during the high mountain stages.
A 6.4km pancake-flat prologue time trial has nothing in common with the epic passes through the Alps and Pyrenees that will come later in the Tour. But the first glimpse of the riders around inner Liege yesterday showed van Garderen has strong form.
The 23-year-old American finished 10 seconds behind stage winner Fabian Cancellara and leads the best-young-rider category.
"I'm thrilled, I worked really hard for it and I think it just shows my form is on schedule to help Cadel in the mountains and throughout the rest of the Tour," he said.
Evans finished 13th in the prologue, 17 seconds behind Cancellara, but more importantly he lost time to second-placed Wiggins.
The Australian has also not enjoyed the strong form that marked the build-up to last year's historic Tour win. By contrast, Wiggins has not put a foot wrong so far this year and deservedly started this Tour as favourite.
Wiggins and his Sky team were superb at last month's Criterium Dauphine, a key lead-up race.
The British rider won and Evans was third.
But Evans has something Wiggins would love - the comfort of knowing he can win the Tour.
"We have full confidence - he's had a bit of a struggle here and there this year, but overall he has three wins under his belt and another podium at the Dauphine," van Garderen said of Evans. "His form is coming in right on time." AAPBy Roger Vaughan