A Team Sky rider leads the Tour de France after Stage 1. Will another one wear the yellow jersey in Paris in three weeks?
Geraint Thomas became the first Welshman to lead the Tour after clocking the fastest individual time trial on a crash-filled rainy day in Duesseldorf, Germany, on Saturday.
“I didn’t even think about it [winning], to be honest,” said Thomas, the most experienced member of favorite Chris Froome‘s support team. “I didn’t believe it was going to happen. I thought [German world time trial champion Tony] Martin‘s going to beat me. Or so-and-so’s going to beat me.”
Thomas covered the flat, wet, nine-mile course in 16 minutes, 4 seconds. He was five seconds faster than Swiss Stefan Kueng.
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Several riders crashed earlier on the course. The biggest was to Alejandro Valverde, the third-place finisher in 2015 who slammed into a metal barrier and abandoned the Tour.
That boosts the hopes for Froome, who is looking for his fourth Tour title in five years. Froome ended up in sixth place, 12 seconds behind his Team Sky mate Thomas.
More importantly, Froome is the highest placed of the general classification contenders. He is 35 and 36 seconds ahead of Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana, respectively.
The top American was Taylor Phinney in 12th place, 17 seconds behind Thomas. Phinney, 27 and a three-time Olympian, is making his Tour debut three years after suffering a broken tibia, broken patella, a severed patella tendon and a ruptured PCL from hitting a guard rail at the U.S. Championships.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the journey, but it’s been quite a ride,” Phinney said on NBCSN afterward. “Can’t complain. Didn’t crash today. Jazzed.”
Thomas, in his eighth Tour de France, notched his first stage win in a Grand Tour. The 31-year-old won Olympic team pursuit gold medals on the track with Great Britain in 2008 and 2012.
Sunday’s Stage 2 is a mostly flat 126 miles from Duesseldorf to Liege, Belgium, that should set up well for sprinters. A fourth-category climb about 12 miles before the conclusion likely won’t prevent a mass finish.
NBC Sports Gold‘s live coverage starts at 5:55 a.m. ET. NBCSN coverage starts at 7:30.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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MORE: 10 Tour de France riders to watch
1. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — 16:04
2. Stefan Kueng (SUI) — +:05
3. Vasil Kiriyenka (BLR) — +:07
4. Tony Martin (GER) — +:08
5. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — +:10
6. Chris Froome (GBR) — +:12
12. Taylor Phinney (USA) — +:17
49. Richie Porte (AUS) — +:47
53. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +:48