WEST BERLIN, JULY 1 -- Dutchman Jelle Nijdam earned the right to wear the overall leader's yellow jersey at the start of the 74th Tour de France bicycle race today when he won the 6.1-kilometer prologue by nearly three seconds over Poland's Lech Piasecki.
The 26-day event, the world's most prestigious bicycle race, will begin outside France for the ninth time since its inception in 1903. The prologue was held on the Kurfurstendamm in West Berlin as part of the city's 750th anniversary celebration.
Fighting strong winds and a route longer than normal for a prologue, Nijdam finished in 7 minutes 6.7 seconds. It was the Superconflex team rider's fourth victory of the year in a prologue. He previously won prologues in the Dunkirk Four Days race, the Tour de l'Oise and the Tour of Sweden.
Piasecki, of the DTO team, was second today in 7:09.0. One of the race favorites, Tour of Italy winner Stephen Roche of Ireland, was third in 7:13.2, one-tenth of a second better than his Italian Carrera teammate Guido Bontempi.
The 207 riders representing 23 teams will compete in a 105.5-kilometer first stage and a 40.5-kilometer team time trial Thursday in West Berlin. They have a day off Friday to travel to Karlsruhe, West Germany, for the 219-kilometer third stage Saturday to Stuttgart. The race will reach France at the end of Sunday's fourth and fifth stages.
Ireland's Sean Kelly, another of the favorites in what is widely considered a wide-open race this year, finished well back today in 7:35.5. Tour of Spain winner Luis Herrera of Colombia came in at 7:37.4 and American Andy Hampsten finished in 7:26.5.