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BMC Racing took an early lead at the top of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana standings after winning Saturday’s opening stage in Nimes with a time of 15 minutes and 58 seconds.
The team time trial began in France and tested groups over a 13.7-kilometre course comprising 20 corners, and the team’s official Twitter account confirmed BMC’s victory:
BMC Racing Team @BMCProTeam
The first leader of #LV2017 is… @RohanDennis 👏👊. We’re looking forward to seeing you in red, Rohan! https://t.co/msVsSDltcs
The Vuelta begins in earnest on Sunday as riders prepare for the 203.4-kilometre journey from Nimes to Gruissan, where the BMC Racing riders will be hopeful of maintaining their strong start.
Rohan Dennis will wear the red jersey after finishing at the front in BMC Racing’s winning performance on Saturday, and Gracenote Olympic took note of the fact it won’t be his first time in such a position:
Gracenote Olympic @GracenoteGold
.@RohanDennis claims his second leading jersey in a Grand Tour, after he won stage 1 (ITT) in the 2015 Tour de France in Utrecht. #LV2017
Quick Step Floors were one of two teams to finish as joint-runners up, ending the opening stage six seconds off the pace alongside Team Sunweb, while Team Sky were nine seconds adrift of the leaders.
Cycling Hub provided a breakdown of the top-placed finishers in Stage 1:
TOP 10 – Stage 1 (TTT) #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/GLRD9TO4Nx
And here’s how the general classification looks leading up to the first long-haul stage:
Top 10 GC after stage 1 (TTT) #LV2017🇪🇸 https://t.co/oTrjfYZAqz
BMC came into the time trial as favourites to win Stage 1 and lived up to expectations by becoming the only team to crack the 16-minute mark close to the end of Saturday’s event.
The frequent turning required on the Nimes course meant teams were largely prevented from getting up to flying speeds in what proved to be a demanding test of technique above all else.
Four of BMC Racing’s eight riders were in the team that won the Catalunya team time trial in March of this year.
Aside from the wealth of top riding talent on display, Nimes also deserved praise for seeing to it that the aesthetic of the opening stage was in-keeping with the culture of the city, via The Cycling Podcast:
The Cycling Podcast @cycling_podcast
Lotto-Soudal race through the Roman arena in Nîmes. It’s been here since AD70 – just before Adam Hansen rode his first Grand Tour. Possibly. https://t.co/ZBAy5nJd28
Lotto-Soudal and Cannondale-Drapac were among the more well-known outfits to take part in the early phases of the stage, while Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Sunweb featured amid the middle of the 24-team running order.
But the team time trial was always expected to be contested among an elite few: Quick Step Floors, Team Sky and eventual winners BMC Racing, who didn’t disappoint.
There were crashes and slips that affected some outfits, but BMC’s ride went by without a hitch, with the team’s greatest asset and potential contender for the Vuelta crown, Dennis, accepting the red jersey after finishing first:
BMC Racing Team @BMCProTeam
The first leader of #LV2017…. @RohanDennis! 👊 https://t.co/tYPFsnkJue
Team Sky will accept the nine seconds separating them from BMC Racing as a foundation from which to launch their Vuelta hopes, with poster boy Chris Froome able to see that as a deficit he has the ability to cut down.
Trek-Segafredo were the final team to take to the course, and 34-year-old Alberto Contador began the final race of his career before heading into retirement later this year.
The veteran looked calm and focused in the seconds before beginning the last race of his professional career, as shown by Cycling TV:
. @albertocontador about to start his final grandtour. Watch @lavuelta Stage 1 LIVE & FREE (Can only) @ https://t.co/KFyv63sPGZ #LV2017 https://t.co/CBVyRfKjOo
Contador couldn’t spur his team to fight for the Stage 1 crown, however, and they ended up 11th overall, 35 seconds off the pace set by BMC.
The biggest disappointment of the stage, however, went to Fabio Aru and his team, Astana Pro Team, who will be eyeing big improvements after they finished 41 seconds behind the leader in 16th place.