Vuelta a Espana 2017
BMC were the only team to post a sub-16-minute time on a highly technical 13.7km course in the French city of Nimes. Quick-Step Floors and Team Sunweb were both six seconds down on the winners in second and third respectively.
Chris Froome’s Team Sky – winners of last year’s opening TTT – came home in fourth place a further three seconds back while the Orica-Scott team of British twins Adam and Simon Yatescompleted the top five at 16’15”.
Three times a runner-up in the Vuelta, Froome was the big winner of the general classification favourites after putting 22 seconds into the Italian 2010 champion Vincenzo Nibali, 26 seconds into triple winner Alberto Contador of Spain and 32 seconds into the 2015 victor Fabio Aru of Italy.
Nibali’s Bahrain-Merida team posted the ninth best time at 16’29”, with Contador’s Trek-Segafredoteam in eleventh and Aru’s Astana in sixteenth.
On a circuit described as “pretty sketchy” by Froome’s compatriot and team-mate Ian Stannard, numerous riders hit the deck – most notably the Dutch debutant Antwan Tolhoek of LottoNL-Jumbo, who appeared to flip over the handlebars ahead of one of a raft of tight and narrow bends.
Taking in many of Nimes’ postcard perfect Roman monuments, the demanding course started outside the 17 BC temple of La Maison and passed through the famous Arena of Nimes – a two-thousand-year-old amphitheatre remodelled into a bullring in the nineteenth century.
Second down the ramp, Lotto Soudal were the early pace-setters before Sunweb and then the world champions Quick-Step Floors moved into winners’ enclosure.
But BMC – twice world champions against the clock – got the best out of their powerhouse riders as Dennis, Italians Daniel Oss, Alessandro De Marchi and Damiano Caruso, Ireland’s Nico Roche and the American Tejay Van Garderen came home six seconds to the better of their big rivals.
Dennis became the first Australian to wear the leader’s red jersey since Michael Matthews wore it for three days in 2014.
Belgian Yves Lampaert is the first non-BMC rider in the general classification, the Vuelta debutant leading Quick-Step Floors home to take seventh place in the standings.
Other times of note included sixth place for Rafal Majka’s Bora-Hansgrohe (+21sec), tenth for Ilnur Zakarin’s Katusha-Alpecin (+33sec), fifteenth for the LottoNL-Jumbo team of Steven Kruijswijk(+39sec) and last place for French outfit Cofidis (+57sec).
The Vuelta resumes on Sunday with the first road stage of the race – a 203.4km ride from Nimes to Gruissan: a rare chance for the sprinters to pick up a win before the Vuelta hits the first mountains on Monday.