Team Sky's opening salvo in the Vuelta a España did not see the British team repeat their 2016 team time trial win, but Chris Froome has already carved out a respectable advantage on some of his key rivals.
On the downside, BMC Racing Team are ahead of Sky by nine seconds. Team Sunweb's Warren Barguil pulled out a surprisingly strong performance to edge three seconds up on the British team, and Quick-Step Floors, led by GC outsider David De La Cruz, are also three seconds ahead.
However, there are many plus points for Froome on what was a short, technical team time trial, with a 22-second advantage on Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), touted as his freshest rival, 26 seconds on Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), and a hefty 32 seconds on Fabio Aru (Astana). Most importantly of all, perhaps, Froome has gained 37 seconds on Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), third in the Tour de France.
Sky's team time trial performance was always consistent, even if their time, six seconds down at the mid-way point on BMC Racing, made it unlikely they would actually win. Froome himself put in some big turns as Sky came into the finishing straight with five riders, the minimum required, but enough to ensure that the British team completed the course collectively in good shape.
As reporters approached him at the finish, Froome wheeled quickly round before delivering one quick comment to the media and then heading to the Sky team bus.
"It's a good start for us," Froome said. "OK, it's not the stage victory, but we put in a very solid ride."
As he observed, "We're there or thereabouts with the best teams."
In the next two crucial stages, across the flatlands of southern France where cross-winds can have a huge impact and then into the mountains of Andorra, the gaps taken by Froome on Saturday could well make it easier for the Briton to control his rivals. Either way, Sky's morale will be boosted by their strong early performance in the days and weeks to come.
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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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