For the fourth year in a row, the “Race of the Two Seas” kicked off with a team time trial.
Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Yves Lampaert, Michael Mørkøv, Maximiliano Richeze, Zdenek Stybar and Elia Viviani rolled down the ramp early on the opening stage of the 54th Tirreno-Adriatico, a 21.5km-long team time trial starting and concluding in Lido di Camaiore, a city within the province in Lucca, which played host to three Giro d’Italia stage finishes in the past two decades.
The route basically consisted of two straight segments and just a few corners, making it perfect for the specialists, but the heavy rain which began to fall since the morning ended up impacting heavily on the classification later, with half the teams being affected by the wet roads, which made for some tense racing in the first two hours.
The ninth team (of the 22 in the race) to leave the start house, Deceuninck – Quick-Step made the most out of it in these conditions and set the fastest time (11:00) at the checkpoint in Forte dei Marmi, a former refuge for the likes of Thomas Mann, Henri Moore, Giacomo Puccini or Aldous Huxley, and despite losing two riders for the second half of the stage, they continued to put in a strong effort and stopped the clock in 23:02.
That result elevated Deceuninck – Quick-Step into the provisional hot seat, having smashed the former provisional time, but with the roads drying up it became obvious that this would benefit the late starters, and so it was in the end, with three teams improving the fastest time and pushing our squad to fourth on the stage classification.
“The result wasn’t so bad, but we were unlucky to have started early, because later the roads were better and the wind direction shifted, playing into the advantage of the others. Fourth isn’t that bad and of course we would have wanted more of this stage, but giving the conditions we had today, we can be satisfied”, said sports director Wilfried Peeters.
The overall standings – where Strade Bianche champion Julian Alaphilippe sits just 37 seconds off the pace – is expected to change on Wednesday, when the peloton will travel to Pomarance for an explosive uphill finish.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele/ Getty Images