Bradley Wiggins (Sky) readies himself for the off. (Roberto Bettini)

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After all the talk, you could sense the release of tension all around the Tour de France as the racing finally got under way today, and nowhere more so than at Team Sky, who have been the centre of so much attention in recent days. The British squad had a great day all round, with Bradley Wiggins finishing second, Edvald Boasson Hagen fifth and Chris Froome 11th, and with no mishaps to report on what was a tricky prologue course tackled in gusty conditions.

Tour favourite Wiggins said he was glad to get the opening day’s
racing out of the way, and happy that it had gone so well for him. “I
finished second, which is a good start. Physically, I felt fantastic out
there,” said the Briton, who gained at least six seconds on all his
likely GC rivals and half a minute on some of them.

Wiggins said that after doing recon of the Liège prologue course in
the morning, he noticed that there were several tricky sections and
decided not to take any major risks. “I concentrated on physically doing
everything we’ve been training for,” he said. “There was a cobbled
section and a few drains on the way out, there was an off-camber
roundabout where again I didn’t take any major risks.

“There’s a commitment in that kind of race for the stage win and
there’s a commitment thinking of the three weeks, and I took the second
option. I didn’t go across the first section of cobbles on the tri-bars –
I came off them for safety reasons. I felt in control during the first
half and then just stepped it up.”

Asked about Sky boss Dave Brailsford’s post-stage comment that the
team didn’t want the yellow jersey, Wiggins said: “I wouldn’t say I
didn’t want the yellow jersey. I would have taken it. But I did say to
the team last night that there’s one man who could beat me and that’s
Fabian [Cancellara]. He’s always king of those things and he’s proved
once again that he’s the best in the world.”

Like his team leader, Brailsford looked very satisfied with the day’s
outcome. “The objective beforehand was to get the team through in good
shape and to gain some time on the GC riders
if possible, to get a few seconds on them. We didn’t really want to win
it. It would have been nice to have won it, but we didn’t really want
the yellow jersey right from the very off. It would have complicated
issues for us in terms of the bigger picture, so it’s been the ideal
start,” he said.

Brailsford was quick to pay tribute to his team leader, admitting he
was particularly impressed with the way Wiggins had performed given the
pressure that has been building on him. “Bradley’s had a lot to do in
the last few days. The media intensity around him is massive, and the
expectation that’s put on him is bigger than ever. But after all that
he’s delivered and he’s shown that he’s very, very strong. His last kilo
was very fast. He looked really impressive,” said Brailsford.

“I think what’s really positive is that when there is so much extra
pressure on someone and you can put all that to one side and step up and
deliver like Bradley has done today, then it shows that he’s a big time
performer and that you can rely on him. He deserves a lot of credit for
doing as well as he did today in this environment.”

Brailsford also paid tribute to his team’s other leading performers
on the day. “I think Froomey did a great ride and Edvald did a super
ride – technically, a very good ride indeed, so that was really

Asked about Boasson Hagen’s prospects on tomorrow’s uphill finish in
Seraing, the Sky boss agreed that it should suit the Norwegian
powerhouse, but admitted he’s got other priorities. “The first thing to
do tomorrow is to get everyone through the stage safely. If Edvald is
then in a position to win I think he will certainly be in with a chance
as it’s his kind of final.”

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