Over the 14km stage 1 Tour de France time trial in Dusseldorf, Chris Froome dispelled any doubts his winning powers had waned. The defending Tour champion is still searching for his first win of the season but his performance in the drizzling rain suggesting it will come over the next three weeks.
Pleasingly for Froome, not only did he send a warning to his rivals, Sky teammate Geraint Thomas took the win and became the first Welshman to wear the Tour's yellow jersey.
Froome covered the 14km course in 16:16 minutes, putting 35 seconds into Richie Porte (BMC) and a further second into Nairo Quintana (Movistar). He put even more time into his GC rivals with Astana's Fabio Aru and Jakob Fuglsang and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) all conceding over 50 seconds. All significant time gaps considering Froome took the 'cautious' option during his ride.
"If you'd told me at the beginning of today that this was what the GC would look like after today's stage, I would have definitely accepted that and been happy to take that," said Froome. "I think I went really cautiously around a lot of those corners. I really went in with the mentality not to take any risks. A lot of guys hit the deck today so it just wasn't worth it. But on the straight bits, I felt I was able to push quite hard. It was great to have that feeling especially given that my time trialling this year hasn't been up to my normal standards."
If Thomas in yellow and Froome confirming he remains the man to beat, Team Sky put on a show of strength with four riders inside the top-ten. Former world champion against the clock Vasil Kiryienka and recently crowned Polish time trial champion Michał Kwiatkowski were third and eight on the day but it was the performance of Thomas which was most pleasing for Froome.
"I think we can take a lot away from that as a team. We have four guys in the top ten that just shows the strength of the team we have here. I'm just so happy for G to have won his first stage of the Tour de France and to be in the yellow jersey as well, it's just incredible," he said. "I can remember my first time as well, it's such a special moment. I think it's something G will remember for the rest of his life and for us going forward as a team I think it's going to lift everyone's morale for these next few days.
Having come into the Tour facing the prospect of being dictated to rather than dictating as Sky and Froome have become accustomed to since 2012, Dusseldorf could well be looked back on as the build block of Froome's fourth Tour title in five years.
"It's going to mean we're going to have to be on the front protecting that yellow jersey, which isn't a bad place to be given all the road furniture and potential crosswinds and rain tomorrow as well. I think we've got the team to ride on the front so I'm looking forward to these next few days."
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