Geraint Thomas wins first stage of 2017 Tour de France
Last Updated: 07/07/17 6:25am
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas has won the first stage of the Tour de France on Saturday on a rainy time trial through the streets of Dusseldorf, completing the 14km course in 16 minutes, four seconds.
The treacherously wet conditions ended Movistar Alejandro Valverde's race when he skidded on a corner and crashed heavily into crowd control barriers, visibly in pain. The Spaniard was taken to hospital with suspected fractures, according to his team. Orica-Scott say Luke Durbridge is also out of the race after crashing.
In a race that saw a number of riders lose time due to crashes, or due to approaching corners with extreme caution, BMC Racing's Stefan Küng came in second, five seconds behind Thomas. Team Sky managed to claim first and third place, with Vasil Kiryienka finishing seven seconds behind his team-mate.
"It's unreal. The start of my eighth Tour, my 12th Grand Tour and my first stage win. It's been a long time coming and it's just an amazing feeling. I didn't even dream about it last night," the Welsh rider told ITV4.
"It's been a rough time on the bike this year and it's nice to finally... it certainly makes up for most of the Giro, and back home as well. With my mum and my wife, I've had a bit of a rough time recently so it's nice to get this win.
"It's unbelievable. I'm lost for words.
"I've got a tendency to go about a bit hard but I'm getting older now and I'm learning my lessons, and today couldn't have gone any better."
Froome was comfortably the best of the general classification hopefuls as Sky made a major statement in the treacherous conditions.
BMC's Richie Porte, seen as Froome's main rival, crossed in a time of 16 minutes, 51 seconds, while there was worse news for Nairo Quintana and Movistar as key man Alejandro Valverde crashed out of the race.
Valverde's Movistar team announced on Twitter a few minutes after his crash that he could not continue.
"Unfortunately @aljandrovalverde cannot continue in the race. What sadness to finish a Tour on the first day," said Movistar.
Spaniard Valverde seemed to jar his left leg when he touched his foot down as he lost his back wheel, before skidding hard into the metal crash barriers.
It was immediately clear he wouldn't be able to continue but his team frantically tried to move him as he was stranded on the apex of a tricky bend, with many other riders set to come around it having set off at one-minute intervals.
Valverde was expected to play a pivotal role in helping twice runner-up Quintana in his bid to defeat reigning champion Chris Froome during the Tour's mountain stages.
Australian Luke Durbridge - a strong time triallist - is also reportedly out of the race after crashing heavily in the opening time trial.
His team tweeted: "#TDF2017 Unfortunately @luke_durbridge1 crashed during the TT. More info to follow."
A number of riders come off their bikes, most of them not badly harmed, including Patrick Bevin (NZl), of Cannondale-Drapac, and Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal).
For all the pre-race talk of a weakened Team Sky, they finished with four riders in the top eight as Kiriyenka was third, seven seconds back, and Michal Kwiatkowski eighth, 15 seconds down on Thomas. Thomas currently holds both the yellow and green jerseys.