"We've got no need to worry," was Pavel Sivakov's straightforward message after Team Ineos' big hitters all struggled on the Critérium du Dauphiné's first stage in the high Alps to Saint Martin de Belleville.
Team leader Egan Bernal was below his best and lost nine seconds to his GC rivals, while Geraint Thomas finished five minutes down and Chris Froome came in a quarter of an hour behind stage winner Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates) and the GC favourites, who were led in once more by Jumbo-Visma's Primoz Roglic.
"You have to understand we did big blocks of training, now we're racing and maybe we need to top up our shape in these races," Sivakov explained. "It's still a long way to the Tour de France, especially the third week. We've really got time, we don't need to stress and worry."
The Russian revealed that Bernal had been below par on the stage that included the fearsome ascent of the Col de la Madeleine. "Egan told me that he was not feeling super today so I stayed with him and tried to bring him to the final," he said.
"In the finish, the sprint started and I didn't see that he was dropped. I carried on and with maybe 100 metres to go, I looked back and saw that he was dropped. Maybe I should have waited for him and paced him to the final. But that's how it is. Egan had a hard day in the end but it's not a problem. He's here after two hard races, I'm sure he's just fine for the Tour."
After being visibly annoyed with not being able to follow the pace of the GC contenders on the Col de Porte on Thursday's second stage, Sivakov was far happier with his own performance, as he finished ninth on the stage, which he described as his "strongest day of the race so far".
"I made a little mistake with my hydration on Thursday when it was a bit cloudy and I thought it wasn't so warm, and paid for that mistake yesterday," Sivakov explained.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.