Team Sky an­swers doubters with dom­i­nant open­ing stage

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL - BY ANDREW DAMPF

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.

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