Geraint Thomas takes rain-spoiled Tour de Romandie prologue
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Geraint Thomas takes rain-spoiled Tour de Romandie prologue

by Ben Atkins at 11:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Race Reports and Results, Tour of Romandie
 
Welsh rider’s fastest time on Lausanne lakefront protected by wet conditions for the late starters

geraint thomasGeraint Thomas (Team Sky) posted his first victory of the season as he posted the fastest time in the 3.34km Tour de Romandie prologue on the lakefront of Lausanne. The Welsh rider, who is riding his first event on the road since being part of Great Britain’s World record breaking pursuit team at the World championships, stopped the clock in a time of 3’29” in the dry conditions during the first half of the stage.

While few of those following Thomas were able to get close to the blistering time set by the World and Olympic track champion, the rain that began to fall soon after his ride meant that none of the late starters would be able to threaten it.

“It’s a nice little win,” Thomas smiled to the Swiss TV cameras afterwards. “The team told me I was racing here about ten days ago so it was great to come over.

“I always knew that I’d be up there,” he added. “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.”

Giacomo Nizzolo (RadioShack-Nissan) - who was the rider to go immediately before Thomas, and so led the standings for almost a minute - finished second on the stage, five seconds behind the Welshman. Thomas’ Sky teammate, World road champion Mark Cavendish - who was just finishing his ride as the rain began to fall - took the final spot on the stage podium, six seconds behind; fractions of a second ahead of another Sky rider, three-time World time trial champion Michael Rogers, and nicely poised to take the lead in the first few stages.

Despite taking the race leader’s jersey, Thomas has no overall ambtions for himself, particularly after having been training for the track until very recently. Instead he will be working for his teammates, who will be chasing results in the prestigious week-long race.

“For myself now it’s purely a team role,” the Welshman explained. “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,” he said. “I’ve been used to 4-k the last couple of weeks with the track but we’ll give it everything and see what happens.”

A short, flat, all-out effort on Lausanne’s beautiful Lake Geneva shorefront

The 3.34km course consisted of a short out and back route, starting at the top of Lausanne’s Avenue de Bains, and descending towards the Lake Geneva shorefront. On such a short course there was to be no intermediate time check, and riders were faced with a short, flat out effort, with no idea of how they were going until they hit the line.

Saur-Sojasun’s Maxime Mederel got the race underway, but the Frenchman’s time of 3’51” was highly unlikely to trouble the leaderboard for long. Sure enough, just six riders later, Ramunas Navardauskas (Garmin-Barracuda) went far faster with a new best of 3’40”.

The Lithuanian, who has bizarrely been nicknamed “the Honey Badger” by team manager Jonathan Vaughters, was in the hot seat for just over 20 minutes however, as Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) went a single second faster, with 3’39”.

Former Dutch champion Stef Clement (Rabobank) lowered the best time to 3’37”, but he was beaten by Nizzolo, in what looked like the first likely winning time. The Italian did not even have time to move Clement from the hot seat though, as the very next rider was Thomas, who was more than four seconds faster.

Rogers confirmed a strong day for Team Sky, with his time of 3’35” slotting the former time trial World champion into third place. Cavendish was to go a fraction of a second faster however, pushing his teammate off the stage podium; just as the Manxman was approaching the finish, the rain began to fall.

And then the rain came...

As the riders in the middle of the field were taking the start, the rain was getting heavier, and the roads were getting wetter; making the likelihood of any of the later starters beating Thomas’ time much lower.

Spanish specialists Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) and Luis Léon Sánchez (Rabobank) playing it safe, with times of 3’42” and 3’43” respectively. Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Jérôme Coppel (Saur-Sojasun) then both matched Sánchez, in what appeared to be the standard time for the slippery conditions.

Manuele Boaro (Saxo Bank) was evidently more willing to take more risks than those before him however, and stopped the clock in 3’38”, which was good enough to put the Italian into provisional ninth; Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Barracuda) followed shortly behind him, just fractions of a second slower, to go into tenth place.

With the rain still falling however, Thomas was appearing safer than ever at the top.

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) had come within a second of the winning time in Paris-Nice in similar conditions six weeks before, and was showing his skills in the wet conditions once more. The course was likely too short for the overall race favourite however, and he finished in a respectable 3’38”, slightly slower than Rasmussen.

With most of the later starters there for the overall victory, few were time trial specialists.
Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was out to prove a point however, in the absence of injured teammate, World time trial champion Tony Martin. The polish rider was all over his bike as he fought for grip in what would have been fast corners in the dry, and flew into the finishing straight. He could only post 3'39" however, but kept himself close to the top.

2011 winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) was the last man to set off, and took few risks as he powered his way around the course. As the Australian crossed the line in a time of 3’49”, Thomas was confirmed as the stage winner

Result prologue
1. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 3.34km in 3’29”
2. Giacomo Nizzolo (Ita) RadioShack-Nissan @ 5s
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky @ 6s
4. Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Sky @ 6s
5. Kristof Vandewalle (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 6s
6. Julien Vermote (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quick Step @ 7s
7. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank @ 8s
8. Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank @ 8s
9. Manuele Boaro (Ita) Saxo Bank @ 9s
10. Alex Rasmussen (Den) Garmin-Barracuda @ 9s

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