Geraint Thomas enjoyed his return to competitive cycling in Friday’s opening stage of the Tour de l’Ain.
The 2018 Tour de France winner finished 24th in a reduced bunch sprint, with Team Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal 14th.
Both riders were part of the group given the same time as Deceuninck-Quick-Step winner Andrea Bagioli.
“I thought I’d struggle a bit with the punch and to start with I did, but by the end I felt like I had legs enough to follow the moves,” Thomas said.
“It was a nice start and it gets progressively harder now each day.”
Ineos’s four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome could only finish 113th – 1min 46sec adrift – after an enforced bike change left him in no position to respond as the leading riders upped the pace of the three-stage race near the end.
Both Froome and reigning Tour de France champion Bernal have already competed in the Route d’Occitanie this season, with Bernal winning it, but Thomas was happy to throw off his lockdown rust.
“It was definitely strange to start with,” the Welshman told the Team Ineos website.
“Going from training on your own for weeks during lockdown, then to Tenerife riding in a group again – to suddenly be back in a peloton like that was definitely different.
“It felt good though actually. It’s good to test the legs properly instead of just riding to numbers in training. It’s important to be back in the peloton and getting that rhythm back.”