The leadership question at Movistar was moot on stage 2 of the Tour de France in Brussels. In Sunday's team time trial, Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa's fates were tethered to one another, and both men suffered a setback in their respective bids for final overall victory in Paris, as Movistar finished a lacklustre 17th, 1:05 behind winners Jumbo-Visma and 45 seconds down on Team Ineos.
The 27.6km course allowed little margin for error – Jumbo-Visma averaged some 57.2kph – but it could be argued that Movistar's principal mistake came before the race began at all. As the Vuelta a España demonstrates, they have a reasonable pedigree in the team time trial, but relatively few of their most noted rouleurs were selected for the Tour. With that as context, Landa maintained that their display had effectively matched their expectations.
"We finished with an acceptable margin. With the team we have, which is focused on the mountains, we did a good time trial," Landa said after wheeling to a halt past the finish line on the Heysel Plateau on the northern fringe of Brussels.
As expected, Andrey Amador and Nelson Oliveira were the mainstays of their effort, along with world champion Alejandro Valverde. Quintana and Marc Soler were also among the six Movistar rider who reached the finish together, while Landa played down his persona; contribution to the time trial effort in his own, deadpan style.
"I was a burden," Landa quipped. "The team paced Nairo and me very well. This first week is about not losing time and then getting to the mountains in the best possible condition."
Landa's thoughts were broadly echoed by Movistar manager Eusebio Unzue, who had accepted his squad would concede ground on the day. "Seeing the times of strong teams in this area like Ineos, Astana or Groupama-FDJ, I think we are at reasonable margins," Unzue said. "It was not the ideal terrain for us and we made a good effort. I'm satisfied. We passed the day on a good note."
As well as the 45 seconds lost to Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas (Ineos), Quintana and Landa gave away 37 to Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), 33 to Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and 24 to Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).
Of the podium contenders, only Richie Porte, whose Trek-Segafredo team came in 1:18 down, and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), who lost 1:19, fared worse than Landa and Quintana. In the overall standings, they now lie 1:15 off the maillot jaune of Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma).
"I think the losses can be considered within what we expected," Valverde said. "It was a very demanding and fast course, which suited Ineos. We did it well, there will be days ahead where we can regain ground."
Quintana, by contrast, struck a slightly more downbeat note, acknowledging that placing 17th out of 22 teams "was not the best result." Three times a podium finisher on the Tour – he placed second in 2013 and 2015, and third in 2016 – the yellow jersey has slipped further from his grasp these past two years.
There are, of course, still three Sundays, 19 stages and a litany of mountain passes to come, but this early concession means that Quintana and Landa's Tour will be uphill all the way.
"We gave what we had," Quintana said. "With our capacities, we did a good time. Losing time was expected. It's not the best thing to lose time, but we knew it from the start."
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