Rotterdam: To finish sixth in a Tour de France prologue, 27 seconds behind the supreme Fabian Cancellara, would please most riders, yet defending Tour champion Alberto Contador was not satisfied.
The result on Saturday was his worst prologue performance in a major race since 2007, and it was also the first time he has lost to rival Lance Armstrong in a time trial since the seven-times Tour de France champion returned to cycling last season.
"I could not find my usual rhythm," Contador, the favourite for this year`s title, told reporters.
"My sensations are not great because I have not been riding competitively for many days."
Hampered by flu, Contador skipped the Spanish championship last weekend and has not raced since finishing second in the Criterium du Dauphine two weeks ago.
"My goal was not to win the stage. I didn`t take any risks," said the Spaniard.
He rode on a largely dry road compared to many other riders on a day affected by intermittent showers.
"The road was dry but some sections were still wet," his Astana team manager, Yvon Sanquer, told reporters.
"It`s a reasonable performance, for the course did not suit him. It was completely flat."
"Yet five seconds behind Armstrong is not much and he made some gaps with the other climbers."
Indeed, Contador put some distance between himself and a clutch of riders who are expected to thrive in the mountain stages later in the Tour.
He leads Giro d`Italia winner Ivan Basso by 28 seconds, Briton Bradley Wiggins and Russian Denis Menchov by 29 seconds, and the runner-up last year, Luxembourg`s Andy Schleck, by 42 seconds.