Dusseldorf, Germany. All eyes were on current time trial world champion and German nationalist Tony Martin to take the Tours first Maillot Jaune on a wet and dangerous opening stage. Through the first checkpoint the German hopeful clocked the fastest time of the day. However, the latter half of the course proved to be too much a challenge for most, including the German, on a day filled with nervous energy.
Geraint Thomas, the impressive team Sky lieutenant stormed to his first ever yellow jersey ahead of the young Swiss phenom Stevan Kung (BMC) and teammate Vasil Kiryienka (SKY), with Martin taking 4th. Wet roads and mounted pressure on the favorites to perform most likely aided Thomas in his win. Taking risks in high-stakes situations such as these requires a clear head and calm demeanor. Difficult to do on the grand stage of the Tour.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I didn’t even think about it to be honest. Probably, I was super relaxed coming here. I didn’t believe it was going to happen.”
Geraint Thomas said of his winning performance. His long wait in the hot seat rewarded with the highest of honors. He will carry the yellow jersey into Liege, Belgium tomorrow.
For a short 14KM stage 1, there was no lack of excitement or stories that will surely impact the remaining 20 days of racing.
Team Sky Dominates
Not only has the British team taken the first yellow jersey of the tour, they managed to place four riders within the top ten. Most notably, Chris Froome, the odds on favorite to win his fourth Tour de France title.
Stage 1 Results GBR 1 THOMAS, Geraint (SKY) 16:04 SUI 2 KÜNG, Stefan (BMC RACING) + 5 BLR 3 KIRYIENKA, Vasil (SKY) + 7 GER 4 MARTIN, Tony (KATUSHA ALPECIN) + 8 ITA 5 TRENTIN, Matteo (QUICK - STEP FLOORS) + 10 GBR 6 FROOME, Christopher (SKY) + 12 NED 7 VAN EMDEN, Jos (LOTTO NL - JUMBO) + 15 POL 8 KWIATKOWSKI, Michal (SKY) GER 9 KITTEL, Marcel (QUICK - STEP FLOORS) + 16 NOR 10 BOASSON HAGEN, Edvald (DIMENSION DATA)
Froome has already put in a staggering lead over his GC rivals on a day many expected the overall favorites to finish relatively close together. Riche Porte, pundit’s main pick for Froome’s closest challenger finished closest among his rivals, losing 35 seconds. With Quintana close behind at +36 to Froome and Bardet, Aru, and Contador each at +39, +40, and +41 respectively.
The widely thought openness of this years race will be put to question as Froom’s head-and-shoulder’s opening against his rivals put’s to bed any questions about his fitness. Surely the rainy conditions played a major factor in separating the risk takers from the cautious. Unfortunately, it also claimed some of the tour’s first victims.
Wet roads and slick paint spelled disaster for more than a handful of riders as they navigated dangerous corners. Most slid along smooth pavement in fleeting moments of despair to calmly get back on their bike to finish the ride. Alejandro Valverde was not so lucky. A hard slide into unforgiving metal barricades left the Movistar rider unable to get up with a potential broken knee.
Nairo Quintana will now be left to battle out the remainder of the tour without his right hand man. A tantalizing task for the Colombian looking to dethrone Froome and his powerful team Sky. Just one day after Quintana said he and his Movistar team will be “much more daring” in this years tour to be atop the podium in Paris. With Valverde out and already 36 seconds down on Froome, that statement only increases in importance.
Stage 2 Beckons
Riders will have a probable sprint finish ending to tomorrows stage into Belgium. Although, if conditions are similar to today, we could be in for more surprises. It will be interesting to see how team Sky protects the jersey and which sprint teams take control of the race. Expect an exciting day of racing as everyone looks to seize any chance possible for a coveted stage win.
A German beginning has not disappointed. The Tour is here, and as always, full of excitement. Today’s taste of racing sets the scene for the next three weeks which will produce only one champion in Paris.