Minutes after stage 1 of the Volta a Catalunya had concluded, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) looked weary but relieved as he stood a good hundred metres away from the photographers and journalists milling around the finish line and reflected on a fraught but ultimately uneventful opening day's racing.
Compared with the opening stage of Paris-Nice, where Contador was caught out in the crosswinds and lost time, the Spanish racer came come through the Volta's opening stage in the same time as all the other favourites and with his general classification options intact.
"It was very fast for a large part of the day," Contador, 57th on the stage, said afterwards to Cyclingnews amongst a small group of reporters. "I had to be very attentive. The important thing has been to save energy thinking about [Tuesday's] stage, which will be a crucial day all round.
"We'll try to do the best team time trial we can and we'll see where we finish," he said, naming "Sky, BMC and Movistar" as the top favourites, "and it's also true that they are amongst the big favourites for the overall as well."
Contador recognised that such a long team time trial in a week-long stage race, "is something which will have a huge effect on the race overall, and it'll shape the fight for GC. But I've got a great team, and I'm fully confident in what they can do."
In the 2017 Tirreno-Adriatico's 22km race against the clock, Trek-Segafredo finished in 12th spot, 58 seconds down on winners BMC Racing. On Tuesday, Contador will doubtless be hoping for a much better performance all round.
Contador's team will start Tuesday's race against the clock fourth out of 25 teams.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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