Seventh place in the 6.1km Paris-Nice prologue was good enough for Team Sky's Geraint Thomas to finish in front of all his GC rivals bar one, Giant Alpecin's Tom Dumoulin. Thomas was tenth in last year's prologue, going onto to help then teammate Richie Porte to overall victory and finish fifth overall but will racing for his own personal ambitions in 2016.
Team Sky's sports director Nicolas Portal explained that Porte was one of the riders that Thomas was keen to beat on the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine course.
"It was great to see him take time on Richie, Alberto and some of the other GC favourites. Paris-Nice is always a very close race, so any gains we can make now are important," Portal said on the team website.
Thomas' time was seven seconds off that of winner Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) but importantly, three seconds ahead of Porte and nine seconds on Alberto Contador. Both two-time former winners of the race.
Portal added that while Thomas was glad to finish ahead of his main GC rivals, the Welshman was aiming to be contesting for the prologue win.
"At the end of his ride Geraint said he'd wanted to do a bit better, but I was super pleased with him. OK, he's always been good at prologues in the past, but he's built like a climber now, so to finish as high as he did was fantastic," said Portal of the recent Volta ao Algarve winner.
"He took three seconds on Porte and nine seconds on Contador. OK, he lost time on Dumoulin, but Dumoulin doesn't look to be in top, top condition right now compared to the Vuelta last season and that might tell in the mountains. We'll see."
Nicolas Roche was the next best Sky finisher in 36th place with Sergio Henao next across the line for the team in 57th place. Two results that Portal explained he was "happy" with considering the power course was not suited the climbing characteristics of the duo.
Thomas will next be tested on Stage 1 from Condé-sur-Vesgre to Vendôme with the 195km day featuring three gravel sectors late in the day on the finishing circuit, including twice up and over the Tertre de la Motte. The technical finish in Vendôme also features several twisting turns that Portal is aware of and will attempt to ensure his riders make to the line safe and sound to ensure Thomas retains his advantage over his rivals.
"It'll be a bit like a Classics day. That loop at the end is twisty and features a third-category climb on dirt roads, which we tackle two times. At the top it could be windy, so we have to be ready for that," he said. "Our goal will be to make sure G defends his position and then we'll see what happens at the finish."
Cyclingnews will have live coverage of stage 1.