DUESSELDORF, Germany (AP) — One stage into the Tour de France was all it took for Chris Froome and his Crew Sky to reply all of the pre-race speak about how they don’t seem to be as dominant this 12 months.
Geraint Thomas, Froome’s most loyal help rider in his three Tour victories, received the moist and slippery opening stage and claimed the yellow jersey.
Averaging 52 kph (32 mph), Thomas required little greater than 16 minutes over the just about totally flat 14-kilometer (eight.7-mile) particular person time trial up and down the banks of the Rhine River in downtown Duesseldorf.
Stefan Kueng of BMC completed second, 5 seconds behind, and Vasil Kiryienka of Sky was third, seven seconds again.
Froome was sixth, 12 seconds behind, and gained time on all of his anticipated challengers. He gained 35 and 36 seconds on Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana, respectively.
Romain Bardet, the Frenchman who completed second general behind Froome final 12 months, and seven-time Grand Tour champion Alberto Contador misplaced much more time.
It was a banner day for Sky, which positioned 4 riders within the high eight with Michal Kwiatkowski in eighth.
In the meantime, there have been quite a few crashes. Two concerned key help riders for the general favorites; Alejandro Valverde, who assists Quintana at Movistar, and Nicolas Roche, who aides Porte with BMC.
Valverde slammed into the obstacles at excessive pace after falling off his bike and was pressured to desert the race in a neck brace with a suspected damaged left kneecap. Roche misplaced management whereas traversing tram tracks.
Sky had no such issues, which was a welcome change after a troublesome begin to the 12 months for biking’s powerhouse crew.
Thomas aimed for general victory within the Giro d’Italia however was pressured to desert that race due to accidents in a crash brought on by a police motorcycle. Froome entered the Tour with out having received a single warmup race — or perhaps a stage — for the primary time since he started dominating 4 years in the past.
With neither a very long time trial nor many mountain-top finishes, many observers steered this Tour would not swimsuit Froome’s strengths.
“It is nonetheless about Froomey,” Thomas stated. “It is clearly an enormous increase of morale however the purpose remains to be Froomey. But when I find yourself staying up there on GC that might be nice.”
Thomas started his profession as a observe bike owner, profitable Olympic and world titles in crew pursuit. However he watched the Tour as a child and harangued his dad to get satellite tv for pc TV protection.
“I received into biking due to the Tour. I ran residence from college to observe it,” Thomas stated. “To be on the opposite aspect of the digicam, placing on the jersey and shaking fingers with VIPs and stuff is the stuff of desires.”
Within the opening stage of the 2013 Tour, Thomas crashed and broke his pelvis however remained within the race till the tip to assist Froome take his first victory.
“I heard in my ear that Geraint Thomas had received. That is tremendous, tremendous,” Froome stated.
Many riders complained concerning the tremendous slippery mixture of oil and rain on the street they usually had been cautious to keep away from using over white site visitors traces, which will be additional treacherous when moist.
“It hasn’t rained right here for months — like all over the place else in Europe,” stated former world champion Philippe Gilbert. “Tens of millions of vehicles have used these roads. There’s oil and diesel on the street. It’s a necessity to be cautious.”
Porte was particularly cautious.
“I adopted Nicolas Roche within the automotive simply earlier than my begin and he binned it, so I used to be petrified to be sincere,” stated the Australian, who confirmed the most effective kind within the Tour warmup races.
Thomas had no worries.
“It rains so much in Wales,” he stated. “So I am used to that.”
Regardless of the rain, followers below umbrellas turned out in giant numbers alongside the complete route because the Tour began in Germany for the primary time in 30 years.
Stage 2 on Sunday is a principally flat 203.5-kilometer (126-mile) leg from Duesseldorf to Liege, Belgium, that ought to arrange properly for sprinters.
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