BOULOGNE-BILLANCOURT, France — French sprint specialist Thierry Marie, riding a newly designed, wind-resistant bicycle, won the 2.86-mile prolog to the Tour de France by less than a second over Belgian Eric Vanderaerden Friday.
Defending champion Bernard Hinault, looking for a record sixth Tour victory in the 73rd annual bicycle race, was third in the prolog, two seconds behind Marie. Top contenders American Greg Lemond and Frenchman Laurent Fignon also finished in the top 10.
Fignon, Tour winner in 1983 and 1984 but hampered by injuries the past two seasons, was seventh, and Lemond was eighth, both four seconds behind the winner.
The prolog, run in hot, humid weather in a West Paris suburb, kicked off a 23-stage, 2,542-mile trek around France that will end July 27 with the traditional final stage in Paris.
Marie completed the run in 5 minutes 21.56 seconds for his third victory this season in a prolog. He also won the prologs of the Tour of Spain and the Tour de l'Aude.
"I was quite moved by this victory and happy to have mastered this new bicycle," Marie said of his new bike, which has carbon disc wheels and small wings behind the seat to help cut through the wind.
Hinault said he was happy to finish third in the prolog but questioned the legality of Marie's bicycle.
"Maybe that wasn't what made the difference, but one can ask the question. In any case, that won't change anything. Tomorrow will be a crazy day," the 31-year-old Hinault said."
The record field of 210 riders will start today's first stage, a 52.8-mile run from Nanterre to Sceaux, in the morning, then compete in a 34.8-mile team time trial from Meudon to Quentin in the afternoon.
Stephen Roche of Ireland, third behind Hinault and Lemond in last year's Tour but still recovering from serious knee injuries suffered last winter, had a strong prolog, finishing 18th at 10 seconds back.
Irish star Sean Kelly, fourth last year, withdrew from the race Thursday because of a leg injury suffered in June during the Tour of Switzerland.
Among other favorites, Belgian Claude Criquielion was 30th at 14 seconds back, Tour of Spain winner Alvaro Pina was 38th at 16 seconds back, Briton Robert Millar was 42nd at 16 seconds back, Switzerland's Urs Zimmermann was 49th at 17 seconds and Spainiard Pedro Delgado was 58th at 19 seconds back. World Champion Joop Zoetemelk of Holland was 63rd at 20 seconds behind the winner.
Eric Heiden, the 1980 Olympic speed skating star, was 25th at 12 seconds back.