Welshman Geraint Thomas wears the yellow jersey into stage three of the Tour de France today after a chaotic opening two stages over the weekend.
The Team Sky rider won Saturday’s opening prologue around the German city of Dusseldorf and finished in the main peloton yesterday to maintain his lead.
It was far from plain sailing, however, and Saturday´s opener was one that claimed to big-name riders in Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Jon Izaguairre (Bahrain Merida).
The Spaniards were two of the man riders who hit the deck hard during the rain-lashed test against the clock, with Valverde suffering a broken leg and a dislocated knee-cap.
It was a huge blow to his team as he’d been seen as a vital foil for Nairo Quintana in their bid to go head-to-head with the indomitable Team Sky who had four finish in the top 10 on Saturday.
Among them was defending champion Chris Froome who finished fourth while Vasil Kiryienka and Mihal Kwiatkowski were also there.
Froome had an eventful day yesterday when he crashed on the run-in to the finish in Liege. He was uninjured and, after picking himself up off the floor, he managed to ride back to the bunch without too much difficulty.
Leading the race by five seconds, Thomas cut a relieved figure at the finish after.
“It was a really special day to walk off the bus in yellow,” he said afterwards.
“It was a massive buzz all day. It was raining but I didn’t really mind too much. The adrenaline and the pride of just wearing the jersey just meant my day was awesome. I just really enjoyed it.”
Marcel Kittel won the stage for Quick Step Cycling and the German was rewarded with a 10-second time bonus that meant he moved up to third, six seconds behind Thomas.
Thomas knows he is probably only borrowing the jersey for now and says he hasn’t put too much thought into how long he could stay in the race lead.
“I don’t know how long I can keep it,” he continued. “I’m treating every day as a bonus.
“Today will have different guys up there sprinting for the win which will be good for me, but we have to be right up there in a good position. Who knows? Maybe to stage five will be nice then I can hand it over to Froomey.”
Irish riders Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche both finished in the bunch yesterday and lost no time to the stage winner, meaning they are well poised.
Martin is just 49 seconds down on Thomas overall in 52nd after a very solid effort against the clock on Saturday while Roche is 1:14 down overall in 111th.
Today’s stage is a relatively flat 212km run from Verviers to Longwy and though there are five categorised climbs, including a sharp ramp to the finish, there is unlikely to be a change in the race lead.
Meanwhile, Team Sky have dismissed suggestions that their dominance of Saturday’s opening time trial in the Tour de France was down to an illegal skinsuit.
Team Sky riders made up four of the top eight on the 14km course around Dusseldorf.
But professor Frederic Grappe, performance director for the French FDJ team and a sports science expert, claimed after the stage that Sky’s skinsuit had Vortex air bubbles woven into the fabric against UCI rules.
Grappe claimed the material could have been worth “18 to 25 seconds” for each rider.
“The rule is very clear. Any aerodynamic addition to the jersey is banned. Sky have clearly infringed,” he said.
Team Sky’s sports director, Nicolas Portal, said Grappe had got it wrong.
“We haven’t cheated,” he said. “Everything is legal and the equipment was validated by the race commission.
“We wouldn’t have taken the risk of losing the Tour from the first stage by cheating. Other teams use this material, but we’re the ones being attacked.
“We’re not infringing the rules because the Vortex isn’t added to the jersey, it’s part of it — that’s different.”
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