Mitchelton-Scott put Michael Hepburn in the leader's jersey and Adam Yates in prime general classification position at Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday, winning the opening team time trial in Lido di Camaiore by seven seconds ahead of Primoz Roglic's Jumbo-Visma team and 22 seconds over Tom Dumoulin's Team Sunweb.
As the first Mitchelton-Scott rider to cross the finish line, Hepburn drew the lucky straw of collecting the first blue jersey of the 2019 race.
"Tirreno is one of my favourite races of the year; I always seem to be in good condition here, but, to be completely honest, I don't deserve the jersey more than anyone else in the squad. That was just the order we were coming into the home straight," said the 27-year-old Australian who has been with the team since 2012. "Team time trials are very technical these days, and it’s something our team enjoys doing – especially me."
Mitchelton-Scott were the last team to leave the start ramp, and it was clear that they were on a stellar ride as they went six seconds clear at the intermediate check. Damien Howson and Chris Juul-Jensen dropped off after doing big turns, but the team still had one more rider than the minimum of four as they entered the final kilometre.
Jumbo-Visma had set the fastest time up to that point, blowing past previous leaders Deceuninck-QuickStep by 30 seconds. Team Sunweb came up short in toppling the Dutch squad, but Micthelton-Scott proved themselves up to the challenge. The team was also aided by increasingly better weather throughout the day.
"It was a good little advantage for us being last off, knowing the times and also with the weather, as the road had dried up a little bit," Hepburn said. "We've been here before and gone off early, and the wind changes, but finally this year we had a bit of luck on our side.
"We were quietly confident in our team," he said. "We have a lot of big boys, a lot of powerful time triallists, and today was one of our chances to get some time, and we did that."
Disaster almost struck the team heading onto the finishing straight when a pedestrian strayed onto the course – the second 'pedestrian incident' of the day – and the team had to take evasive action, narrowly missing the woman and her dog. With just a short run to the line remaining, the squad regrouped and powered over the line.
Adam Yates now sits fourth overall behind teammates Hepburn, Brent Bookwalter and Luke Durbridge, while Alex Edmondson is fifth at three seconds. Among the GC contenders, Roglic is seven seconds back, Dumoulin is 22 seconds down, and Julian Alaphlippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) is at 37 seconds.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is 47 seconds down, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is at 58 seconds, and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) lost 1:10.
"A super start," Yates said of his team's result. "We've been trying to win a TTT for a long time. I think I've been here four or five years now, and every time we try, every year we bring a super-strong team, and we've been close, and now we've finally got it.
"Tonight we'll look at the standings and work out where we are," Yates said. "It's going to be tough. There are no big, super-hard mountain stages this year, but we'll see, and just take it stage-by-stage."
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