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Being the only team below the 24-minute mark, Etixx-QuickStep came out on top in the opening team time trial at the Tour de San Luis and put Richeze in the overall lead; Movistar was second and Astana third

Photo: Etixx-QuickStep/Tim De Waele

ASTANA QAZAQSTAN TEAM

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MAXIMILIANO RICHEZE

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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QUICK-STEP - ALPHA VINYL

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TOUR DE SAN LUIS

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18.01.2016 @ 22:47 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Etixx-QuickStep confirmed their status as one of the best team time trial teams in the world when they took a clear victory in the opening stage of the Tour de San Luis. The Belgians were 8 seconds faster than Nairo Quintana’s Movistar team in second, with Astana 9 seconds further adrift in third. Local rider Maximilano Richeze was first across the line and takes the first leader’s jersey.

 

Etixx-QuickStep are double world team time trial champions and a perennial favourite for the event. That made them confident that they would be a contender when the Tour de San Luis kicked off with a flat 21km test, the first team time trial in the history of the event.

 

However, the Belgian team were without their biggest engines and even though they went into the race with lots of powerful lead-out guys, it was far from certain that they would be able to match the likes of Tinkoff and Movistar on the out-and-back course in El Durazno. However, they firmly lived up to their status as one of the specialists as they won the stage with an 8-second advantage over the Movistar team.

 

Etixx-QuickStep were the fifth last team to roll down the start ramp and faced the time of 24.16 set by the Tinkoff team of Rafal Majka and Peter Sagan. However, it was clear that they were on a roll as they turned in a time that was 12 seconds faster than the Russians and they managed to put another 11 seconds into their rivals before stopping the clock in 23.53.

 

With Astana, Cannondale and Movistar still on the course, there were still three WorldTour teams to come but none of them managed to beat them. Vicnenzo Nibali’s Astana were just 1 second behind at the turning point but lost plenty of time on the way back, ultimately finishing third in 24.10. Nairo Quintana’s Movistar team had a slower start as they were 12 seconds behind at the intermediate check and even though they were the fastest on the way back, they could only take back four seconds, meaning that they had to settle for second.

 

Maximiliano Richeze was first across the line for the winning team and so took the overall lead while the win also sets GC rider Rodrigo Contreras well up for the GC. With the second place, Quintana is another big winner as he is best of the pre-race favourites, 9 seconds better than Nibali and 20 seconds better than Majka.

 

The smaller teams were expected to suffer on the flat course and this means that some of the contenders have already lost significant time. Defending champion Daniel Diaz and his Delko Marseille team lost 58 seconds and last year’s runner-up Rodolfo Torres and Androni were 59 seconds off the pace. Eduardo Sepulveda (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) lost more than a minute, Alexis Vuillermoz and Ag2r lost 56 seconds and Andrew Talansky’s Cannondale were 3 seconds slower. None of the continental teams were within a minute of the winners.

 

Richeze will wear the leader’s jersey in tomorrow’s second stage which has an early category 3 climb but is mostly downhill. The wind could play a role but with a bunch sprint the expected outcome, Richeze’s teammate Fernando Gaviria is poised to take the lead.

 

A flat course

The 2016 Tour de Tan Luis kicked off with the first team time trial in the history of the event as the riders tackled 21 completely flat kilometres on an out-and-back course in El Durazno. The non-technical and flat nature of the course meant that it was suited to the biggest specialists among the small 6-rider teams.

 

The first team to roll down the ramp in the hot conditions in Argentina was Drapac which was down to just 5 riders as Jens Mouris had fallen ill and was unable to take the start. However, the Australian team did surprisingly well despite their lack of manpower and stopped the clock in 24.53 when they reached the finish.

 

Good ride by San Luis

Janier Acevedo’s Jamis team hoped to limit their losses in the team test. Having lost 21 seconds at the turning point, they reached the finish in 25.15, thus only losing 1 second to the Australians on the way back.

 

The locals were cheering for the San Luis team which fields former podium finisher Sergey Godoy but the team time trial was not expected to favour the local teams. However, they did surprisingly well, losing just 1 second to Drapac at the turning point, and even though they faded on the way back, the time of 25.16 was better than expected.

 

Surprisingly good performance from San Juan

Things were much harder for the Argentinean national team which is mainly composed of young riders and their time of 25.50 was only good enough for fourth of the first four teams. The Dominican Inteja team did much worse, posting a very poor time of 27.03 to slot into last place.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Mexican national team had a hard time in the special event and their time of 25.42 was only good enough for fourth. However, most already had their eyes on the local San Juan team which had only been 10 seconds behind Drapac at the turning point. The team maintained the speed on the way back to post a time of 25.06 which was just 13 seconds off the pace in second place.

 

Unitedhealthcare take the lead

The first real rivals for Drapac were expected to be the Unitedhealthcare team of overall contenders Daniel Jaramillo, Matthew Busche and Janez Brajkovic. The American team was 10 seconds behind at the turning point but finished strongly with 5 riders to beat Drapac’s time by 6 seconds, stopping the clock in 24.47.

 

Many were curious to see how the Delko Marseille team of reigning champion Daniel Diaz would do in the special test and they were on track for a great ride when they turned in a time that was 1 second faster than leaders Unitedhealthcare. However, they lost time on the way back and had to settle for second with a time of 24.51.

 

Italian disappointment

Nippo-Vini Fantini are in Argentina with a team for the sprints and so the expectations were not great. They reached the turning point in a good time but suffered on the way back before stopping the clock in 25.23 to slot into seventh. Unsurprisingly, Los Matanceros and the national teams from Brazil and Chile were far off the pace, posting times of 26.28, 26.13 and 25.53 respectively.

 

There were much higher expectations for the Italian national team which included professional riders Filippo Pozzato, Jakub Mareczko and Elia Viviani. They turned in a fast time of 11.38 which was 3 seconds faster than Unitedhealthcare but lost manpower in the second half, ultimately crossing the line in 25.18 to slot into seventh.

 

Ag2r-La Mondiale miss out

Uruguay had a relatively quiet ride with a time of 25.37 but everybody already had their eyes on the first WorldTour team, Ag2r-La Mondiale. The Frenchmen were 13 seconds faster at the turning point, posting the fastest intermediate time, but like everybody else, they couldn’t keep up with the Americans on the way back. Their time of 24.49 was 2 seconds off the pace and only good enough for second.

 

Androni are going into the race with last year’s runner-up Rodolfo Torres and he got the race off to a solid start. After being 1 second faster than Unitedhealthcare at the midpoint, the Italian team stopped the lcokc in 24.52 which was enough to move into third.

 

Tinkoff crush the opposition

Lampre-Merida are here with a young team and they had a hard time in the opening stage. The Italian team could only manage 25.08 which meant that Jan Polanc, Mattia Cattaneo and Ilya Koshevoy lost time for their GC campaign.

 

Fortuneo-Vital Concept kept local hero Eduardo Sepulveda in contention with a time of 25.00 which put them into sixth place before Costa Rica defied expectations by stopping the clock in 25.08 to equal Lampre-Merida’s time. However, most were waiting for the arrival of Tinkoff as the Russian team had posted the fastest time at the midpoint, fractions of a second faster than Ag2r. Unlike the Frenchmen, they maintained the speed and Maciej Bodnar led his teammates across the line in 24.13, clearly the best time at that point.

 

Etixx-QuickStep take the lead

The Cuban national team lost plenty of time while things were much better for the Strongman team. The Colombian squad have lots of young, talented climbers and with a time of 25.13, they proved that they are in Argentina to do well.

 

Etixx-QuickStep were among the pre-race favourites as they went into the stage with a powerful team and they could not have wished for a better start. They were 12 seconds faster than Tinkoff at the midpoint and when they crossed the line with Richeze in the lead, the clock stopped at 23.53 which was clearly the best time.

 

Movistar get close

The Holowesko-Citadel team which was formerly known as Hincapie were not in the mix so it was left to the final three WorldTour teams to challenge Etixx-QuickStep. Things were looking promising for Astana as they were just 1 second behind at the time check but when Vincenzo Nibali led Eros Capecchi, Michele Scarponi and Miguel Angel Lopez across the line, the clock showed 24.10 which meant that they had to settle for second.

 

Cannondale had a poor ride and even though they were just 10 seconds behind Tinkoff at the midpoint, they ended the stage far off the pace with a time of 11.47, led across the line by Andrew Talansky. That left just Movistar out on the course and the Spaniards were in contention at the midpoint where they were third, 12 seconds behind Etixx-QuickStep. They finished strongly to stop the clock in 24.01 but it was 8 seconds off the mark and only enough for second.

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