Team Sky boss David Brailsford warns his Tour de France rivals not to be fooled, that they are “here to race” as they showed with Geraint Thomas’s win in the stage one time trial and three others including Chris Froome placing in the top 10 today in Düsseldorf.
Some questioned Froome’s form given his lack of a victory and Critérium du Dauphiné ride ahead of the Tour de France. And of course, Brailsford and Sky have been dealing with the British Cycling and UKAD inquiries in the background.
“What a day!” Brailsford said at the team bus surrounded by celebrating staff.
“We look vulnerable don’t you think? That’s what everybody’s been saying.
“We’re on it. Despite what everybody else says. We’re here to race now.”
As the rain fell, Sky improved. The dismal day held a rainbow and a pot of gold – or yellow jersey – for the British super team.
Thomas, 44th from last to start, blasted around the 14-kilometre course as if it was dry. Vasil Kiryienka placed third at eight seconds, Froome sixth at 12 and Michal Kwiatkowski eighth at 15.
Seven cyclists crashed on the course, two failed to finish and left the Tour on its first day.
Froome showed that he is ready to defend his title and race for a fourth victory. His rivals in the overall all lost time. Brit Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) came closest at 25 seconds and Australian Richie Porte (BMC Racing) at 35.
The day was a welcome relief for Brailsford after much negative press this winter. And a relief given that its star contender stayed upright.
“It’s nice to get a nice steady start. It was nervous, it was a bit edgy watching the lads in the wet and it was a real shame to see Valverde go down. That’s quite sad for him, so I hope he’s all right.”
No one talked about Thomas possibly leading Sky out of the gates of the 2017 Tour de France. Now, the Welshman will head the team riding from Düsseldorf and over the Belgian border to Liège in stage two.
“We talked about this. We had a couple of guys and we thought should we go full-gas, get the jersey or whatever,” Brailsford added.
“Geraint is a mature athlete on top of his game, he had a rough time at the giro but he bounced back physically and mentally needed to get going again.
“You’ve got to take these opportunities in life when they come along. You can’t not be happy for Geraint, he deserves this so much. It’s a dream come true for him and us.”
Thomas led Sky with Mikel Landa into the Giro d’Italia. However, both team captains crashed in stage nine to Blockhaus. Thomas had to leave for home and abandon his dream of winning the overall a few days later such was pain in his knee.
“At the end of the day we’re involved in a sport with wheels and the thing about a wheel is it always turns,” said Brailsford. “At one minute you’re in the depth of despair and before you know it it’s turned around and here we on cloud nine again. That’s part of our sport.”