BARCELONA (Reuters) - Chris Froome’s bid to win the Vuelta a Espana for the first time got off to a strong start as the Briton’s Team Sky came fourth in the team time trial in stage one on Saturday in Nimes, which was won by BMC Racing.
BMC’s Rohan Dennis of Australia is the overall leader and will wear the red jersey in Sunday’s flat 203.4 km stage, which also takes place in the southern French city before moving into Spain in stage four on Tuesday.
“It’s a good start for us,” Froome told reporters.
“OK, it’s not the stage victory, but we put in a very solid ride. We’re there or thereabouts with the best teams.”
Four-time Tour de France champion Froome is aiming to become the first rider in 39 years to win the Tour and the Vuelta in the same year and made an early dent on his rivals in the general classification (GC), leading Vincenzo Nibali by 22 seconds, Alberto Contador by 26 and Fabio Aru by 32.
Sky came across the finish line with five riders, nine seconds behind BMC Racing, who finished six ahead of second placed Quick-Step Floors and Team Sunweb in a messy time trial which saw frequent crashes as several riders struggled to negotiate the highly technical course.
The 13.7 km track, which went mostly through winding, narrow city centre streets and through a Roman amphitheatre, was almost half the length of the team time trial in last year’s Vuelta, where Sky pipped Movistar to victory by less than a second.
UAE Team Emirates, LottoNL-Jumbo and Movistar all experienced crashes, although all riders were able to continue.
“It was a hard course, very technical to start and we really had to tactically figure out if it was better to finish with nine or drop a few beforehand,” said stage winner Dennis.
”It tested everything, it tested strength, technique, speed and handling. I’m not too worried about GC on this year’s grand tour. My goals were always Giro for GC, and then Vuelta.
“I just want to go for some stages and test myself against some of the GC guys. Hopefully I can come away with a couple of stages.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge