Etixx-QuickStep win Tour de San Luis team time trial

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.