Tour de Romandie

Thomas seals prologue win

Team Sky place three men in top five

By Richard Simpson   Last updated: 27th April 2012

Geraint Thomas powered to victory in the opening prologue at the Tour de Romandie to move into an early race lead.

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The Brit put his track training to good use across the 3.3-kilometre course to set a blistering time of three minutes and 29 seconds as the Swiss stage race got under way.

The 25-year-old moved into the yellow leader’s jersey by a four-second margin after his time stood up against some intense competition, largely from his own team-mates.

Mark Cavendish put in a superb performance to clock a time of 3:35, good enough for third place on the day in what was a resounding success for the team.

That effort from the Brit bumped team-mate Michael Rogers down to fourth by a margin of just four-hundredths of a second, but ensured Team Sky occupied three of the top five places after the first of six stages.

The rain began to fall as the later runners left the ramp, yet just as in Paris-Nice, Bradley Wiggins was able to pull out an impressive ride in difficult conditions to register a time just nine seconds off that of Thomas.

Good enough for 11th, the effort puts Wiggins ahead of a number of dangerous rivals for the general classification going into Wednesday’s first road stage.

Strong start

After the stage a happy Thomas admitted: “It’s a nice little win. The team told me I was racing here about 10 days ago so it was great to come over. I always knew that I’d be up there. Fortunately with the weather conditions it played into my hands a bit but there was only really one corner. There’s only so much time you can lose in one corner.

“For myself now it’s purely a team role. I’ll be there to help Cav in the sprints wherever they come and Bradley is going for the GC as well so I’ll be there to help him wherever I can. Coming from the track I don’t really have the climbing legs at the minute. I’ve been used to 4k the last couple of weeks with the track but we’ll give it everything and see what happens.”

“The team has stepped up a level each year now. As we saw in Paris-Nice it is a strong team. Obviously I’m not going to be anywhere near the lead come the end, but I think it’s good for the team to get the win and get the jersey. It’s always good for morale and I think we would have probably had to ride anyway along with BMC. This race means a lot to the team and we’ve got big ambitions here.

"For the team whoever wears the jersey it’s good. If I could lead out Cav tomorrow and he could win and take the jersey it would be great. As long as it’s within the team we’re happy.”

Mixed conditions

With the skies looking threatening, spots of rain interspersed the riders as 159 men rolled down the start ramp in Lausanne.

Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) set an early benchmark of 3:40 out on course as the early runners took advantage of dry conditions.

The time was chipped away at by both Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Stef Clement (Rabobank) respectively before Thomas took an impressive chunk out of the leading time.

With spots of rain falling it was a nervous wait for the Welshman and the team, with the rain coming down hardest as Richie Porte left the ramp.

The Australian, who claimed a time trial victory in the 2009 edition of the race, posted a time of 3:45 in an opening test which saw the top contenders all covered by a slender margin - Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) completing the podium with second place.

After the stage Sports Director Sean Yates was very happy with the start the team had made but insists the goal remains the same across the six days.

He said: “The goal when we came here was to try and win GC. I think we have more than a realistic chance of winning it come Sunday. Today was a bit of an extra bonus. If it had been dry it wasn’t out of the question that Bradley might win the prologue. G coming off the track obviously has the ideal preparation for a three kilometre prologue. But a great performance on the track doesn’t always equate to a great performance on the road.

“G has been around for a while now on the road and the course in particular suited him in that it was very high speed. He’s very aerodynamic and he also had the power to use to his advantage. His time in the final kilometre was quite astounding. He was flying!

“It was a shame for the other guys that it started raining towards the back end of the prologue. I think it would have been more or less the same if everybody had dry conditions in terms of the times amongst the GC contenders like Evans, Kreuziger etc. It would have been hard to beat G to be honest having driven behind him.

“It’s a great start to the race and let’s hope it continues. Tomorrow we’ll look to defend the jersey and maybe go for the stage win if Cav’s still there. We’ll see how it pans out.”

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