Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) said he was happy to break his “duck” after winning his first race in almost three years at the Tour de Romandie.
Thomas suffered an "inexplicable" crash in the closing moments of the penultimate stage, but made up the deficit on the 16.9km ITT in Fribourg to roar back into the yellow jersey.
The Welshman, who last tasted victory at the 2018 Tour de France, finished 28 seconds ahead of team-mate Richie Porte in GC, with Fausto Masnada (Deceuninck-QuickStep) a further 10 seconds back in third.
'I just didn't have it' - GB's Thomas reflects on disappointing Olympics
The veteran, 34, has been handed leadership duties by Ineos for the Tour over Grand Tour winners Egan Bernal, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Richard Carapaz. He will have support from the latter two in France, with Bernal heading to the Giro d’Italia instead as he continues his comeback from a back complaint.
- 'I can't say when that will be' - Froome's frank admission about reaching former level
- Tour du Rwanda: Who will take victory in Africa's biggest UCI stage race?
Tour de Romandie: Stage 5 highlights as Thomas claims yellow jersey
“At the start of the year I said my goal was the Tour and every race was a build up to it,” said Thomas.
“I didn’t really put any pressure on myself to perform early. But I seem to have come into some good shape pretty soon.
“I had a lot of good races building up and obviously Catalunya was really good for the team… so I knew I was going well. Myself and Richie, we wanted to come here and win the race with one of us. With first and second, we can’t complain."
Victory at Romandie marked another sign of progress for Thomas, who also finished third at the Volta a Catalunya behind Adam Yates and Porte in March.
And while he admitted it was nice to finally win again, he insisted that he had shown promising signs across the last few seasons despite nearly three years in the victory wilderness.
“As we all know, bike racing’s about winning,” he said.
“But it’s not like I haven’t performed since I won the Tour. I was second in the Tour (2019, behind team-mate Bernal), second in Tirreno (2020), third in Catalunya (2021).
I’ve been up there but it’s nice to finally get the win and break that sort of duck.
Thomas will face stiff competition from Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) and Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) at the Tour, with the Slovenian duo duking it out for victory in 2020.
The Tour, which is live on Eurosport along with the Giro and La Vuelta, starts on June 26 in Brest.
Woods rides into yellow as Thomas suffers ‘inexplicable’ crash on Stage 4
‘What have I done in a previous life?’ - Thomas after another crash at Olympics
'My head's all over the place' - Thomas rues crash in Olympic road race