The British WorldTour outfit was the second squad to start out on the flat 21.5-kilometre test against the clock in Lido Di Camaiore. This put them at something of a disadvantage as they were unaware of how other teams would tackle the twisting route.
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Nevertheless, the squad finished in third spot, nine seconds behind winners – and former TTT world champions – BMC Racing, with Mitchelton-Scott in second place at four seconds.
“I’m very happy, the guys were very, very fast today,” said Sky sport director Matteo Tosatto. “When you start as the second team sometimes the weather conditions can change ahead of the final team.
“The guys were very strong, very happy and it was a good start to Tirreno-Adriatico.”
Geraint Thomas crossed the line first as Sky finished, perhaps hopeful that if the squad won he would take the early race lead. Ultimately, the leader’s jersey went to BMC’s Damiano Caruso – but Thomas sits in ninth place overall, with team-mate Chris Froome in 12th spot.
“Today G [Thomas] and Chris [Froome] put in good performances, stages three and four are very important and they look as though they are in good form,” said Tosatto.
Sky managed to finish with six riders in its leading group in the TT, whereas BMC and Mitchelton-Scott had just four. Crucially, though, Mitchelton-Scott’s four included GC hope Adam Yates, who is now in seventh place overall, and the highest-placed of the pre-race favourites.
Other GC contenders did not fare so well, with Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Mikel Landa (Movistar) losing 45, 49 and 50 seconds to BMC respectively.
The race continues on Thursday with stage two, a largely flat stage that is widely expected to end in a bunch sprint. Then it is on to Friday’s long, lumpy stage with an uphill finish to Trevi and Saturday’s equally hilly excursion on stage four with a long climb to the line in Sarnano Sassotetto.
Tirreno-Adriatico then concludes on Tuesday, March 13, with a decisive 10km individual time trial in San Benedetto Del Tronto.