Despite the stage being neutralised, Tinkoff-Saxo were one of the few teams with general classification prospects to lay it all out on the contentious team time trial course on the opening day of the Vuelta a España. The efforts paid off when they beat Orica-GreenEdge by half a second to take the top spot with less than half the teams still to finish.
They were just getting comfortable in the hotseat when they saw team time trial world champions BMC knock them off by just a hundredth of a second. It was a bitter disappointment for the team, who had set their sights on the Vuelta a España’s first red jersey, but team leader Rafal Majka remained pragmatic.
“Although the time-trial was neutralized and doesn't count towards the GC, our plan was to give our best and fight for the win. We didn't want to take any unnecessary risks but at the same time we weren't there to take an easy ride. Congratulations to the entire squad for the great effort they put today on that tricky and technical course. We missed the first spot for less than a second but that is just the start of a long and tough Vuelta,” said Majka, who will lead the team’s GC ambitions.
Peter Sagan led the team home, distancing them in the final stretch to the line. He was on course to take the leader's jersey, if the team had won, but ended up with the consolation prize of his familiar companion the green points jersey. The time trial caused a lot of consternation in the build-up to the race, with safety concerns about the varying surfaces over the short route. In the end, it was decided that the times on the day would not count for the overall classification therefore allowing the general classification teams to take it easy – if they wanted to.
“There was a lot of discussion before the start and all the stakeholders agreed on this solution, where the GC would be neutralized. But the victory was still on the line and we chose to go full gas just as we had done on the recon. I have to say chapeau to the boys, they performed very well and rode a very good TTT. We’re glad that we beat Orica by a fraction and then we were in the hot seat,”
said Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Tristan Hoffman.
“We all wanted to secure this win so when BMC finished just under a second faster than us, we were naturally very disappointed. However, we are very satisfied with the performance and this start. It’s difficult to identify, where we could have gained that extra second as the squad went at full intensity throughout the route.”
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