The BMC Racing Team suffered two blows to their overall ambitions at the Vuelta a Espana on the first mass-start stage to Caminito del Rey, as red jersey holder Rohan Dennis and Richie Porte were left on the wrong side of a split in the peloton and lost over 13 minutes.
Dennis, who won the opening stage time trial, suffered on a stage that was technically classified as flat, but as the peloton found out, it was anything but - with four classified climbs and numerous stretches of narrow, tight roads.
"I think the wind played a big part in today's stage and the roads were never straight or flowing so, you never got to sit in the peloton," Dennis said. "You were always chasing or in single file going around a corner. The altitude gain wasn't that bad but I think the terrain was the real difficulty today."
The 163.5km stage from Marbella started out to script, with a breakaway going clear on the first climb, the category 2 Puerto de Ojen, and getting an immediate gap.
"At the start, I didn't feel too bad and we were riding pretty solidly. Of course, it wasn't easy but I was feeling comfortable with the pace and I thought maybe my legs would be better than I thought," Dennis said.
"But, about two hours in, I really started to suffer and even sitting on the wheel I wasn't feeling great. I lasted for as long as possible and I was planning on trying to help at the end if I was needed but I just had nothing left in the tank."
It didn't help that Team Sky and Movistar went to the front as the last of the breakaway riders were getting reeled in and upped the pace ahead of the final part of the closing circuit with some 30km to go. The surge split the peloton and Dennis and Porte both ended up on the wrong side of the split.
Porte, who insisted before the race that his form was not where it was before the Tour de France, which he left on stage 9 after crashing and breaking his collarbone, said he was not disappointed in the stage.
"I never said coming into this race that I was after the GC," Porte said. "The team said we would take it day by day as it's not been a good run in from me. If you crash out of the Tour de France, you're not straight back on your bike.
"Yesterday was a great day for the team and we had Rohan in the red jersey today which was great but for me personally, I knew I wasn't going to have a great day today from the get-go. It was a tough stage for everyone I think and when you see guys lighting it up like the Spanish guys did, it's never going to be easy. They definitely made the race hard today but we have to keep looking forward though and will see what happens as the race develops."
Nicolas Roche finished the stage as BMC's best-placed rider, giving up 15 seconds on the run-in behind stage winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). He is in 23rd place overall, 50 seconds behind new race leader Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky).
"I think with my lack of racing in the past weeks, I was missing something in the final 500m," Roche said.
"I was in a good position but I didn't have the kick I needed. I'm a little bit disappointed that I couldn't accelerate but I think I will ride myself into the race. 15 few seconds lost today is not a big deal."
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