Team Sky are traditionally strong against the clock and the Welshman, who has been with the British team since it began in 2010, was a driving force as they destroyed the Dauphiné field on Wednesday.
They clocked 36:33 on the 35km course from Pont-de-Vaux to Louhans, averaging more than 57km/h, to beat second-placed BMC Racing by 38 seconds. Lotto Soudal and Mitchelton-Scott were the only other teams to get within a minute of Sky.
“I’m super happy. We rode that really well from start to finish,” Thomas told Cyclingnews. “We got on a good pace and just even turns, you know – there were no egos, no one tried to go too long, we just kept the speed high and kept it all the way through, which was a big plus.”
If the margin was surprising, the fact that the victory went to Sky certainly wasn’t. Michal Kwiatkowski had won the opening-day prologue and Gianni Moscon finished third, as Sky placed four riders in the top 15. Thomas was arguably on course to win it, but crashed just beyond the half-way mark.
“We knew from the prologue we had a good team for that sort of effort, and it showed today,” said Thomas. “That was probably one of the best TTTs I’ve been in, pace judgement-wise. I think you could see that on the splits, other teams started to fall away and we held that pace, which was great.”
The result of the two races against the clock is that Team Sky have taken control of this Dauphiné, occupying the four top spots on general classification. Kwiatkowski leads by three seconds from Gianni Moscon, with Jonathan Castroviejo at nine seconds and then Thomas at 21 seconds.
Thomas and Kwiatkowski came into the race as nominal ‘co-leaders’, and the road is set to decide the hierarchy, with four back-to-back mountain stages to come. Up against a strong field of climbers, the race is far from won.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge, for sure, four tough days. But we’ll go into it with a decent advantage, and with cards to play, and we’ll try to hold onto it,” said Thomas.
“Bardet is obviously a good climber and he’ll be looking to get that time back over the next four days. There are certainly enough mountains to do that.”
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