There can be little doubt that the wet weather that left the Dusseldorf ITT course slicker than Teflon played on the minds of the vast majority of the 197 starters and was not the spectacle organisers would have been hoping for given the occasion. Richie Porte (BMC) likely left with similar sentiments.
Speaking before great rival Froome crossed the finish line in sixth place, just 12 seconds behind teammate and stage winner Geraint Thomas, Porte admitted the conditions had left him wary.
“… I was petrified, to be honest. It was such a slippery course. I would have liked to have done a quicker time but the main thing is to have kept all my skin.”
And Porte is right. While we don’t know the Australian’s reaction to Froome’s performance, with three long weeks ahead, it’s wise to maintain a big picture view. Prior to the Critérium du Dauphiné last month and earlier at the Tour de Romandie, you have to go back to 2013 Critérium International to find a Porte victory over Froome in a time trial. Froome, eventual GC winner, would go on to beat runner-up Porte by 32 seconds. Swings and roundabouts.
Giving Froome 35 seconds advantage isn’t ideal. But it also is not a complete disaster. Somewhere in the middle would have been the aim, if not better.
Nairo Quintana meanwhile finds himself a man down with 20 stages to go, following Alejandro Valverde’s sickening crash and abandonment from the race. The internal Movistar battle promised to have us on the edge of our seats for the next three weeks. Would Valverde use the parcours to his attacking advantage putting pressure on Quintana, or would he ride for his Colombian team leader? Race fans have been robbed.
If any solace can be found in the result, it’s that Quintana gave up only 36 seconds to Froome.
Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) like Porte, played it safe and is 39 seconds behind Froome.
Robert Gesink (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) rode impressively to be just 31 seconds in arrears of Thomas and 19 of Froome indicating that the Dutchman just might be in for another top 10 performance at the Grand Boucle and shouldn’t be underestimated.
As for Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), a 42-second deficit to Froome is perhaps enough to suggest that barring a miracle, the Spaniard won’t be returning to the podium in Paris.
Monday night’s action as the Tour de France returns home via Belgium is likely to be the next all-important day for the GC contenders, with splits expected at the finish in Longwy. We were told that Team Sky was less imposing than in previous years, however, with four riders in the top 10 at the end of day one, the reality is there for all to see.
Froome said it best: “I think we can take a lot away from that as a team. To have four guys in the top 10 just shows the strength of the team we have here.”