Team Sky answers doubters with dominant opening stage
düsseldorf, germany — One stage into the Tour de France was all it took for Chris Froome and his Team Sky to answer all the prerace talk about how they are not as dominant this year.
Geraint Thomas, Froome’s most loyal support rider in his three Tour victories, won the wet and slippery opening stage and claimed the yellow jersey.
Averaging 52 kph (32 mph), Thomas required little more than 16 minutes over the almost entirely flat 14-kilometer (8.7-mile) individual time trial up and down the banks of the Rhine River in downtown Düsseldorf.
Stefan Kueng of BMC finished second, five seconds behind, and Vasil Kiryienka of Sky was third, seven seconds back.
Froome was sixth, 12 seconds behind, and gained time on all of his expected challengers. He gained 35 and 36 seconds on Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana, respectively.
Romain Bardet, the Frenchman who finished second overall behind Froome last year, and seventime Grand Tour champion Alberto Contador lost even more time.
It was a banner day for Sky, which placed four riders in the top eight.
Meanwhile, there were numerous crashes. Two involved key support riders for the overall favorites; Alejandro Valverde, who assists Quintana at Movistar, and Nicolas Roche, who aides Porte with BMC.
Valverde slammed into the barriers at high speed after falling off his bike and was forced to abandon the race in a neck brace with a suspected broken left kneecap. Roche lost control while traversing tram tracks.
Sky had no such problems, which was a welcome change after a difficult start to the year for cycling’s powerhouse team.
Froome entered the Tour without having won a single warmup race — or even a stage — for the first time since he began dominating four years ago.