Orica-GreenEdge pleasantly surprised with team time trial performance
Australian team focused on Esteban Chaves' GC hopes
As the winners of the last two grand tour team time trials, Orica-GreenEdge were a favourite for the opening stage of the Vuelta a España in Jerez de la Frontera on the 12.6km course but the Australian team was playing down its chances of victory.
The team finished in third place on the stage, well up on its predictions of the lower end of the top ten, providing a solid platform for Esteban Chaves's GC ambitions.
"We don’t have the specialists’ team here," team manager Shayne Bannan said before the stage. "We'd be happy with the top eight."
"The boys did extremely well," sport director Neil Stephens said of the stage. "The main priority was to stay together to try to make a bit of a difference in the time for Esteban.
"Straight after the finish, we were a little bit down but then we started to see the times we had done against the times of our rivals and we soon realised that it is quite easy to make some mistakes when you are going as fast as we were.
"When you look at the times, it was a fantastic ride, well above what was expected and it was a bit of an indication of how good the guys are going. I knew we were going well, I knew that they had trained well and I knew the tactics were going to be there but I didn't really think the stage was in our grasp."
Movistar were the fastest team on the stage clocking a time of 14:13, six seconds ahead of second placed Cannondale and GreenEdge on the technical course which featured 17 roundabouts.
GreenEdge won the team time trial at this year's Giro d'Italia and also claimed victory at the Tour in the same discipline last year.
Stephens added that as the team is focused on the GC with Chaves, it was a different strategy for today but one which almost succeeded.
"That was actually good because it took a little bit of pressure off us," Stephens said. "The boys went out and rode as fast as they could, they didn't take any risks and just went out there and did the job.
"The result of the stage is not only an indication of good form but also the professional attitude these riders and staff have had over the last few days leading up to the stage.
The team has worn the leader's jersey of both the Giro and Tour and with Michael Matthews has the opporuniyty of completing the grand tour collection with bonus seconds on offer at the stage finishes.
Tommorow is a predominantly flat 174.4km stage from Algeciras to San Fernando and expected to suit the sprinters but takes place in one of one of Europe's prime windsurfing locales, which highlights the main difficulty riders are likely to face. Read the full stage preview here
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