"A disappointment for Sky" was how Italian television summarised the end of Giro d'Italia stage one, a team time trial on the Italian Riviera. The British team and its leader Richie Porte lost 20 seconds in the first 17.6 kilometres of the three-week stage race.
Sky placed ninth at 27 seconds behind winner Orica-GreenEdge and new race leader Simon Gerrans, but more importantly 20 seconds behind team Tinkoff-Saxo, with Alberto Contador, in second place.
"It was 17.6 of a race that's going to be over 3000 kilometres long," Sky sports director Dario Cioni told Cycling Weekly. "You always look at the seconds in the first day of the Giro, but in the third week, it's going to be minutes.
"We lost some time, but Porte was calm and felt good, he never suffered, that's already something and means something.
"The first day is always strange, some riders go well and some have a hard time," Cioni continued. "We have more riders for the mountains here and we didn't really bring men for this stage. We were there with many other teams, there were no crashes, so it's OK to start like that. "
This was only a flat stage at the start of a three-week race that ends with some of the most brutal climbs in Italy, but those seconds could make a difference as Porte tries to win the Italian Grand Tour for Sky.
"We did a good team time trial," Porte said after his ride, but before Tinkoff had finished in San Remo.
"It wasn't ideal to lose so much time on Astana, but at the end of the day it's seconds, come the second or third week, it's going to be minutes."
Astana placed third at the end of the bike path stage, Etixx-QuickStep in fourth, their leaders Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Urán put 14 and eight seconds, respectively, into Porte.
The favourites for GC now reads: 1) Contador, 2) Aru at six seconds, 3) Urán at 12 seconds, 4) Porte at 20seconds.
"You always want to win, but the objective is to think about the GC," Spain's Contador said.
"We came out well from the day. It's not so much to our other riders, only six seconds to Astana, but I felt good. Good weather, a good result... What else could you ask for?"
The Cycling Weekly Giro d'Italia contenders preview
Porte won his stage races this year – Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya and Giro del Trentino – with a mix of climbing and time trialling. He could easy snap up those lost seconds in the 59.4-kilometre time trial in the Prosecco hills of Veneto or the Alpine mountain passes to the north in the third week.
"These seconds are important," Colombian Urán said, "but the Giro is very long."
"This shows how important it is to have a united and strong team, it's not just an individual sport," Italian Fabio Aru added.
"There are still 20 stages ahead, though. There are many climbs to come, many roads to have fun on and to take advantage of."
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