The BMC Racing team celebrated a second consecutive victory in the opening team time trial at Tirreno-Adriatico, putting Damiano Caruso in the leader's blue jersey, Stefan Küng into the best young rider's white jersey and helping team leader Tejay van Garderen gain precious seconds on all his overall rivals.
The BMC riders celebrated on the podium, while the staff and team management, including time trial coach Marco Pinotti, celebrated nearby; their smiles and hugs replacing the tension and expectation they showed before the stage.
Van Garderen is often soft spoken and reserved but was clearly happy to have won the stage again and to have gained time on everyone else. BMC won with a time of 23:20, meaning the American gained 21 seconds of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), 24 seconds on Adam Yates (Orica-Scott) and a whopping 52 seconds on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida). Fabio Aru (Astana) lost 54 seconds, while Tom Dumoulin lost 55, and Bauke Mollema 57 seconds.
"It feels incredible. It's always good to get a stage victory, especially with this team. We put so much emphasis on team time trials, that's really become our identity on BMC," van Garderen said.
He explained that BMC's win came thanks to several key factors and especially hard work.
"We have it down to a science and when we can put all the practice into motion, it's a great feeling," van Garderen said.
"It's the confidence, it's the bravado, it's the attitude of the team. It's down to a lot of things: the training, the attention to detail that we place on this, the time we dedicate to this at training camp.
"At home we do time trial workouts and having a TT bike, meaning we can train on them twice a week through the winter. It's the whole package, it's not just showing up on the day and performing, there are months and months of preparation."
Van Garderen called for a team time trial in every Grand Tour and wished there was one in this year's Giro d'Italia, where he will lead BMC.
He has raced less than many of his overall rivals at Tirreno-Adriatico so far this season but is upbeat as the race heads south and then into the Apennines.
"The season's still very young and I don't have a lot of racing in my legs to compare myself to the other contenders, but the sensations are good, the morale is good and we had a good start. It's great to get a leg up on the other GC guys heading into the big stages," he concluded.
Pinotti on the secrets of a great TTT
Marco Pinotti admitted to Cyclingnews that watching the BMC riders win was as satisfying as when he was a rider himself.
"The TTT was always important to me as a rider and now its even more important as a coach. I feel the pain of the effort in my legs as if I'm out on the road," he said, explaining what is needed to win such as high-speed, team-focused event.
"At the end of the day, you have a good, strong team and lots of preparation. TTTs are always an objective for the team, and the more of them you do, the better you do them. We have a core group we work with and then we add different riders depending on the races. You need two 'motors' as the core and then you add the other riders and then train them to ride together as a unit. You have to have a balanced team."
A dream come true for Caruso
In 2016 Daniel Oss lead home the BMC team in the team time trial and so pulled on the first leader's jersey. This time that honour fell to his compatriot, Damiano Caruso, who enjoyed a moment in the spotlight as reward for his hard work for his team leaders.
"This a dream come true, the team was incredible today," Caruso said.
"Rohan Dennis and Stefan Kung made a huge difference, and we were setting a really, really fast pace. In the end, it was a surprise for us to finish 17 seconds ahead and faster than last year, so it is incredible.
"We never decide who should cross the line first in a team time trial, it's more important to win. Now I've got the jersey, I'm going to enjoy it even if we're going to ride for Greg Van Avermaet on stage 2 and ride for van Garderen for overall success. Where I come from we always say that you have to defend the jersey. I want to do that even if I'm a domestique."
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