Team Sky dominate as Geraint Thomas sets an unrivaled pace to earn yellow jersey
The much-anticipated Tour de France got underway when 22-year-old French rider Elie Gesbert left the ramp under the dark and damp skies of Düsseldorf, Germany. Precipitation was forecast and the weather didn’t improve all day, giving all 198 starters plenty to ponder. Gesbert’s time of 17’24” didn’t stand for long, Sonny Cobrelli took almost a minute out of him with a time of 16’38”.
The main talking point was the standing water and many of the riders opted to maneuver through the technical sections of the course in an almost upright position. Andrey Grivko was not in a conservative mood, he set a time of 16’21” to move into the virtual yellow jersey place. Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen was the first of many riders to lose a front wheel and bite the tarmac.
Sunweb’s German rider Nikias Arndt demonstrated his technical ability as he averaged 51.43KPH to set a time of 16’20” – much to the delight of the German crowd. Green jersey favourite Peter Sagan looked in a relaxed mood but he could not take any time out of Arndt.
The riders rolled off the ramp and through the streets of Düsseldorf and a pattern began to emerge. Team Sky’s Vasili Kiryienka held the virtual jersey for some time but he was eventually forced to surrender the jersey to team-mate and unlikely stage winner Geraint Thomas. The Welshman hadn’t had the best of luck up until today’s stage but he was all smiles when tour favourite Chris Froome rolled over the line 12 seconds down. Thomas claimed the yellow jersey with a time of 16’04” – his first ever Grand Tour victory.
Froome finished 6th fastest, 47 seconds ahead of rival and former team-mate Richie Porte. The Australian finished closest of any of the GC contenders to Froome, on a stage mastered by Team Sky. Sir Dave Brailsford’s team finished with four riders in the top-eight. Post-race analysis began to ask questions about why the other teams didn’t execute their strategies as efficiently as Team Sky.
Movistar set back
The other talking main point of the stage was the withdrawal of Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, the lieutenant to GC contender Nairo Quintana. Valverde lost his front wheel on a left hander, crashing into the segregation barriers. He was taken to hospital and questions will be asked as to why crash mats were not put in place at that section of the course. Whether or not Valverde’s withdrawal will impact Quintana’s own ambitions of taking the overall tour remians to be seen. Bahrain-Merida’s Ion Izaguirre also withdrew from the race.
Thomas also took the green jersey and Team Sky picked up the best-team award for the stage. Froome looked in good shape, his rivals all posted a similar time to Porte’s.
All eyes now focus on stage two, a 203KM route from Düsseldorf to Liege, Belgium. The tour organisers have opted to avoid the lumps and bumps often found in the Spring classics. Tomorrow’s stage is one for the sprinters. There are two category 4 climbs, one 6.5 KM in and the second at the 182KM marker.
There’s already been plenty to talk about on the 104th edition and we’ve barely got started. Congratulations goes out to Geraint Thomas – it’s the sprinters who will fancy their chances in Belgium.
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