BRUSSELS, Belgium (VN) — Defeat looked pretty good for Team Ineos on Sunday.
Ineos set an early fast time on the 27.6km time trial and spent much of the day in the hot seat before Jumbo-Visma—the final team to take to the course—crossed the line to win.
The finish places Thomas and his teammate Egan Bernal in an ideal position for the coming mountain stages of the Tour. While they trail Jumbo’s GC threat Steven Kruijswijk by 20 seconds, both men are now well ahead of other contenders.
“I think we did a really good TTT and it was really nice to be in the hot seat,” Bernal said after the finish. “We took some time on some good GC riders today so it was perfect for us.”
Behind Ineos, other GC favorites faltered on the fast and twisting course that began and finished in Belgium’s capitol city. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa lost more than a minute, as did Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale).
Team Ineos director Nicolas Portal said the result is especially good for the squad that chose its Tour de France lineup based more on each rider’s climbing ability.
“We are a GC team and the guys have been working hard at climbing,” Portal said. “They are all good time trialists but they’ve been working hard to become super climbers. So, for a climbing team, that’s a really good result.”
The Tour de France peloton now embarks on several flat and rolling stages before the first crucial uphill finish on stage 6 to Plateau des Belles Filles. Race leader Mike Teunissen holds the yellow jersey, with his nearest competitor, Team Ineos’s Gianni Moscon, sitting 30 seconds in arrears.
The positioning means Jumbo-Visma will be the team riding the front of the peloton for the next four stages—a scenario that will allow Team Ineos to rest its domestiques for the upcoming battles in the Pyrenees and Alps.
“I’m happy to be through these first two stages,” Bernal said. “In a Grand Tour you have to go day by day. I’m already thinking about tomorrow.”
Team Ineos (formerly Team Sky) have never won a TTT at the Tour de France. Last year they finished second to Team BMC in the Tour’s stage 3 TTT at Cholet; in 2015 it was a similar result during the stage 9 TTT in Vannes.
In both occasions the team’s strong TTT performance helped set up the squad to win the overall.
Thomas said the 21-second margin to Jumbo-Visma was a sign that the better team had won. Still, Thomas said, the defeat sets Ineos up well for the coming stages.
“It was quite good going off first as your judgment on how the ride went isn’t skewed by the result, but I felt it was good,” Thomas said. “Looking at GC, it’s a good performance, but obviously we wanted to win. I think 20 seconds [to Jumbo-Visma] is a big enough gap to know a few mistakes didn’t cost us the stage win.
“It was a positive day for sure,” Thomas added.