It may be a team with a new sponsor rather than a new team, per se, but CCC Team's first outing in their new guise – the squad was formerly known as BMC Racing – was a successful one on stage 1 of the Tour Down Under on Tuesday, with Paddy Bevin spending the day in the break and picking up a number of bonus seconds before Jakub Mareczko sprinted to third place on the stage.
Bevin escaped with Team Sunweb's Michael Storer, Jason Lea (UniSA-Australia) and Artyom Zakharov (Astana), and while Zakharov later dropped back to the relative safety of the peloton on what was a scorching hot day on the stage between North Adelaide and Port Adelaide, the trio battled on until eventually being caught. Bevin's efforts, however, netted the New Zealander five bonus seconds, putting him into third place on the general classification by the end of the day.
"It was definitely our intention to go out there after the bonus seconds," Bevin explained. "We talked about it yesterday, and if they were going to let a group roll away and you could kind of sneak off the front and take some sneaky time in a race that's often decided on count back or bonus seconds, then why not take the opportunity?"
In making his move, Bevin made his general classification ambitions clear.
"Absolutely," he said. "That was a GC play today, and although it's a bit of a gamble when it's this hot, it's this hot for everyone. There are not too many times in this race where you can say, 'Hey, there are two intermediate sprints out there with bonus seconds on offer just for being out there," so we went out and took them. It means we start the next five stages with a head start."
If there's a downside to burning some of your matches so early, it's that Bevin could struggle in the coming days. The 27-year-old, however, thinks it's a risk worth taking.
"If that wasn’t a worry, then everyone would be fighting to get in the break, so it was definitely a trade-off," he said.
"You're up there, being able to take on water and not having to do big accelerations. But it was definitely a gamble today: you can take those five seconds but then lose two minutes in five days' time. This is bike racing, and we're here to try to win the race. If I lie down and just wait for Willunga Hill [on stage 6], I'm not going to win it. I'm going to have to fight for every single second, and that started at kilometre zero today."
Mareczko in the mix
As well as Bevin's push for the GC, CCC Team were able to put sprinter Jakub Mareczko into prime position for the stage victory in Port Adelaide. And although the Italian wasn't able to get the better of stage winner Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-QuickStep), third place was a fine result – and arguably a relatively unexpected one with the likes of Peter Sagan and Caleb Ewan attempting to take on Viviani.
"Today was hot – so hot," an exhausted Mareczko said at the finish, pouring cold water over himself as he spoke. "The race was crazy, and in the final kilometre I just tried to stay in front thanks to Fran Ventoso and Joey Rosskopf.
"Paddy had been in the breakaway to try to take some bonus seconds for the overall, and it was great that he was able to do that, and then in the final few kilometres we tried to stay near the front.
"I think I went into the final kilometre in around 15th place. Riders started to come by me, but because of the wind I kept waiting, but then finally went for it. I'm very happy with third, and happy for the team, who worked really well today, and so we'll hope to do better again."
Bevin, too, was full of praise for Mareczko and his teammates.
"It's great to start putting the results on the board," he said. "Jakub's obviously a great sprinter, so he was up there today and that’s good for his confidence. We had a bit of a crash in the crit [Down Under Classic] on Sunday – he got caught up a bit there – but we've got guys here that can help him," Bevin said.
"It's good for the team to come out swinging. There are a lot of new guys and a lot of new faces, and we kind of have to rebuild post what it was [BMC]. We've moved on. It's a new team with new ambitions, and we want to fight every day for results, throughout the season, from January to October."