Geraint Thomas formed part of an Ineos Grenadiers podium sweep during the prologue at the Tour de Romandie with a runner-up performance that he said shows a steady improvement in his form. Thomas and Richie Porte finished the 4.05km individual time trial nine seconds behind their teammate and stage winner Rohan Dennis.
"I blew out some cobwebs," Thomas said in a post-race interview. "It’s the same for everyone though, we’re not really used to doing efforts like that. But it was decent, I think. I tried to control the first part and move on a little harder at the bottom of the climb. In the last 200 metres, it felt like I started to slow down quite a bit then but it is what it is – a good start to the race."
The opening stage of the Tour de Romandie took the riders on a flat and straight opening two kilometres followed by a 180-degree turn, and then another tricky 90-degree corner before turning onto the final climb. The riders then raced 880 metres up the Route de Bulle at an average gradient of 7.6 per cent to the finish line.
Thomas was the last rider off the starting ramp but his teammate Dennis had already set the unbeatable benchmark of 5:26 earlier in the day, and Porte crested the final climb and crossed the line nine seconds slower. With Dennis out of reach, Thomas matched Porte’s time on the flat and the climb, which stopped the clock a fraction of a second faster to finish in second place, with Porte moving down to third.
"If that’s the result then it’s great for the team," Thomas said. "I think you’ve got to pace it well with a climb like that at the end. So if we’re first, second and third, then that’s a great start."
Dennis will wear the Tour de Romandie’s first leader’s jersey into stage 1 on Wednesday, while Thomas and Porte sit nine seconds back in the overall standings. Stage 1 is 168.1 kilometres between Aigle and Martigny, and features 3,435 metres of climbing with six categorised climbs.
The Tour de Romandie, which was cancelled last year due to COVID-19, returns for six days of racing and includes a total of 12,500 metres of climbing. The race will likely see a shake up in the overall classification -especially on stage 4 to the Thyon 2000 ski station - before the final stage 5 time trial on Sunday.
Thomas raced Etoile de Bessèges, Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var and Tirreno-Adriatico this spring before finishing third overall at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, where his Ineos Grenadiers teammates also swept the podium with winner Adam Yates and runner-up Porte.
His performance in Catalunya and a strong start at the Tour de Romandie indicate that he is making progress toward the Tour de France that begins on June 26 in Brest. Thomas, who won the Tour de France in 2018, forms part of Ineos Grenadiers' long list for this year's Tour de France.
"Training’s been pretty good," Thomas said. "Each race this year I’ve felt like I’m improving a lot. Catalunya was obviously a good result so I’ll just keep trying to build on that. The progression is heading in the right direction. We’ll see how I fare compared to everyone else, though. That will be the real marker, I guess."
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