Geraint Thomas’ London 2012 preparations paid dividends with victory in the opening prologue of the Tour de Romandie, while Sky team-mate Mark Cavendish claimed third.
Thomas won team pursuit gold at the UCI Track World Championships in Melbourne earlier this month and returned to the road for the six-stage race, starting a block of racing which also includes the Giro d’Italia, before switching back to the boards for the final build-up to the Olympic Games.
The 26-year-old clocked three minutes and 29 seconds over the 3.3km course in Lausanne, Switzerland, to claim his first WorldTour victory, finishing five seconds ahead of Radioshack-Nissan-Trek’s Giacomo Nizzolo, while Cavendish, winner of the 2008 Romandie prologue, completed the podium.
Thomas was among the early starters who benefited from dry roads, but the Welshman played down the impact the rain had on the late starters.
“It’s a nice little win,” said Thomas. “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.
The Tour de Romandie sees two of this year’s Tour de France contenders, Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins, go head-to-head.
Evans, who withdrew from La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege through illness, finished 20 seconds off the pace in 80th, but Wiggins registered an impressive ride on wet roads to finish 11th, nine seconds off Thomas, who will now support the British national champion and Cavendish through the rest of the race.
“For myself now it’s purely a team role,” added Thomas. “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.”
Tour de Romandie prologue
1) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – 3:29 minutes
2) Giacomo Nizzolo (ITA) – RadioShack-Nissan-Trek +5″
3) Mark Cavendish (GBR) – Team Sky +6″
4) Michael Rogers (AUS) – Team Sky +6
5) Kristoff Vandewalle (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +6″
6) Julien Vermote (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep +8″
7) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank +8″
8) Stef Clement (NED) – Rabobank +8″
9) Manuele Boaro (ITA) – SaxoBank +9″
10) Alex Rasmussen (DEN) – Garmin-Barracuda +9″