Just one second down on Britain?s Bradley Wiggins in the 2007 Dauphine prologue, this time round Levi Leipheimer (Astana) was the fastest – by the same margin.

Second behind the American national road-race champion and 2006 Dauphine Libere winner was Norway?s Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole). Third – and showing strong form in his build-up to the summer – was Spaniard Alejandro Valverde (Caisse D?Epargne), just six seconds back.

?I?m a lot stronger than I was this time last year.? Leipheimer said. ?Last year I was coming back from a long break after the Ardennes Classics, this time I?ve just done the Giro.?

?In the Tour of Italy, I was effectively training for this race. Ever since the spring, the Tour of California.? – which Leipheimer won – ?and the Dauphine Libere have been on my calendar.?

Leipheimer said he was felt more than at home, too, on Sunday?s flat and extremely untechnical course. ?Guys like Fabian Cancellara and Hushovd are better at cornering than me. On a straight course like this, I feel I’ve got a better chance at doing well.

When you add to that a strong tail wind and dry roads, then I?m generally able to turn in a good ride.?

WINNING EVERYTHING THEY CAN

It?s common knowledge that Astana are not doing the Tour de France. So, Leipheimer explained, the Kazakh squad are determined to go all out in every other race they can take part in.

?We want to do as well as we can in all the other races. We?ve been winning all over the place, from Castille and Leon and the Tour of the Basque Country in Spain to Romandie in Switzerland to the Giro D?Italia.?

?If I can win here, I?d be more than pleased. I?m not saying I?m going to do it, but I?m certainly going to give it a good try.?

Looking ahead to the Olympics, Leipheimer will be doing both the road and the time trial. ?although it?s difficult to know how I?ll be able to train well for them without doing the Tour de France.?

For now, though, he?ll happily settle for first place again in the Dauphine – and Sunday, for him, was the ideal start.

DAUPHINE LIBERE 2008 PROLOGUE: RESULTS
1 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 5.7km in 06min 10 sec

2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole at 1sec
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse D?Epargne at 6sec
4 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 12sec
5 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Ag2R same time
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 13sec
7 Brett Lancaster (Aus) Milram
8 Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas all same time
9 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quick Step at 14sec
10 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi same time
British
71 Charly Wegelius (GB) Liquigas at 28sec

imageThor Hushovd was just one second behind winner Leipheimer

imageCadel Evans showed he’s on form with a strong sixth place

imageLevi Leipheimer won the prologue, can he repeat his overall win in 2006?

imageBelgium’s Maxime Monfort in fourth

imageLevi Leipheimer gets to be the first person to wear the 2008 Dauphine yellow jersey

All photos by Luc Claessen/ISPA

RELATED LINKS
Flat start for Dauphine Libere
Dauphine Libere 2008 preview