Chris Froome (Sky) got his Tour de Romandie campaign underway with a convincing win in the short opening prologue time trial on Tuesday.
The British Sky team leader was last man off, and blitzed the 7.5-kilometre course in a time of 13 minutes and 15 seconds, six seconds clear of second-placed Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) and 13 seconds faster than Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) in third.
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Time trial world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) found the ascending course not to his liking and finished outside the top ten, in 16th at 29 seconds.
Wilco Kelderman (Blanco) put down an early fast marker, but the 22-year-old Dutchman’s time finally started to drop down the leaderbaord as the top-seeded riders came through.
From the start in La Chable, a short flat section allowed the riders to warm up before the climbing started – culminating in a draggy 2.5-kilometre ascent to the finish in Bruson at 1110 metres above sea level.
British first-year pro Josh Edmondson put in a solid time to place 42nd, with Sky team-mate Peter Kennaugh in 35th.
The prologue was not one for the sprinters. British fastmen Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Adam Blythe (BMC Racing) placed 165th and 168th – last place – respectively. Blythe later commented on Twitter: “I have not felt that bad on the bike in a long time. No Power. No speed. Not enough air. I felt horrible!!!”
Froome and his Sky team-mates now face the tough task of defending the leader’s jersey throughout the six-day Swiss race. Last year the event was won by Bradley Wiggins (Sky) on his way to victory in the Tour de France, a situation that Froome is hoping to emulate this year.
“I haven’t raced now in a stage race for a month since Criterium International,” Froome said after the win. “I wasn’t sure how my condition would be coming into this race. Winning the prologue today is definitely a good sign and I’d like to try and defend the jersey this week the best I can. I know it’s going to be a very hard week of racing.”
“We’re going to try and keep [the jersey]. I don’t have a really big advantage on the other GC contenders here. I think the big stages will be this coming weekend. On Saturday we have a really hard mountain stage followed by a time trial on Sunday.”
So far in 2013, Froome has won a stage of the Tour of Oman and won the race overall, won a stage and Criterium International overall, and won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico and placed second overall.
Tour de Romandie 2013, prologue: La Chable to Bruson, 7.5km ITT
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky in 13-15
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 6 secs
3. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard at 13 secs
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 15 secs
5. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar at 16 secs
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 17 secs
7. Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco at 17 secs
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 17 secs
9. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 17 secs
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Blanco at 18 secs
35. Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky at 46 secs
42. Josh Edmondson (GBr) Sky at 48 secs
165. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 2-50
168. Adam Blythe (GBr) BMC Racing at 3-46
Overall classification after prologue
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
3. Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky
5. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar
6. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
7. Stef Clement (Ned) Blanco
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
9. Tom Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp
10. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Blanco
Josh Edmondson elected to ride his road bike
Robert Kiserlovski, second
Maximum effort: Chris Froome on his way to winning the prologue
Chris Froome in the leader’s jersey