DUESSELDORF (Germany): Reigning champion Chris Froome wasted no time flexing his muscles at the Tour de France as he powered to sixth place in a treacherous opening time trial won superbly by Team Sky colleague Geraint Thomas on Saturday.
Heavy rain turned what, on paper, had looked like a regulation 14-km circuit alongside the River Rhine into an incident-packed Grand Depart that could have major consequences in the three-week battle for the yellow jersey.
While it was a great start for Team Sky, with Thomas, three-times champion Froome and Vasil Kiryienka all in the top six of the 198 riders to start, Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde’s Tour is already over after a sickening crash.
Heavy rain made the roads greasy and there were several crashes, although Valverde’s was by far the worst, the Spaniard careering into crowd barriers after skidding off on a corner.
He was taken to hospital with leg injuries.
It was a huge blow for his team mate Nairo Quintana too as the Colombian was counting on Valverde’s experience in the mountain stages to come.
Thomas showed brilliant bike-handling as he finished in 16 minutes 04 seconds, five seconds ahead of BMC’s Swiss rider Stefan Kueng, who was two seconds ahead of Kiryienka in third.
Froome, the last rider out, was 12 seconds slower than Thomas but significantly quicker than his main GC rivals.
Quintana was 48 seconds slower than Thomas with Australian Richie Porte one second quicker than the Colombian.
Hopes that Tony Martin would mark the first German Grand Depart since Berlin in 1987 with a home win were washed away as he could only manage fourth quickest.