Nicolas Roche and his Tinkoff-Saxo squad were visibly satisfied with their performance in the Giro d'Italia's opening team time trial on Friday, with the squad finishing a solid fourth on the stage, just 23 seconds behind winners Orica-GreenEdge.
Like the Australians, Tinkoff-Saxo had had one of the earliest starts of the day - they were third team down the starting ramp at the Titanic Quarter - and, again like Orica-GreenEdge, as team after team crossed the finish line in front of Belfast City Hall, their time remained throughout the evening as one of the best. The result is that on a stage where greater than expected time differences were lost by some favourites, Roche and Tinkoff-Saxo GC contender Rafal Majka have come through one of the trickiest early stages with their overall options more than intact.
Like many of the other favourites, Roche correctly used Orica-GreenEdge's time as a reference point well before the team time trial was over, telling reporters before the race had completely finished, “I think we've done a good time.”
"Orica are probably the strongest team today and it was always going to be hard to beat them."
"But this morning I was saying that if we were within 30 seconds of the winning team, we'd be doing well. I can't see another team putting another 10 or 20 seconds into them - at least I hope not."
As Roche pointed out, Tinkoff-Saxo have several young riders in their Giro line-up, including "three who were doing their first team time trial and they gave it everything. They rode brilliantly."
"We had no specialists on the team, either, apart from Mick [Rogers - who finished with the main Tinkoff-Saxo group of riders on his second day’s racing in 2014 - Ed.], although I think it's one of my strong points, too."
Underlining the collective effort that a team time trial demands, Roche added, "It's always very emotional and anxious before the start of a race like that and the team time trial is one of my favourite disciplines. I like the doing all the preparation together, spending all of the day together from morning to evening."
Roche also highlighted the start in Belfast, packed with fans, as "something very special, it was a very warm welcome. The crowds were brilliant, a lot more than I expected. It was breathtaking."