Nicolas Roche enjoys red letter day at Vuelta
BMC Racing win team time trial, Ireland’s Aqua Blue finish in 13th place in Nimes
BMC Racing Team’s riders, including Ireland’s Nicolas Roche, in action during the first stage of the Vuelta. Photograph: EPA
Chris Froome’s bid to win the Vuelta a Espana for the first time got off to a strong start as Team Sky came fourth in the team time trial in stage one on Saturday in Nimes, which was won by BMC Racing which includes Irish rider Nicolas Roche.
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.
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, 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 under a second.
UAE Team Emirates, LottoNL-Jumbo and Movistar all experienced crashes, although all riders were able to continue.
Aqua Blue, the first Irish team to compete at a Grand Tour event, finished in an extremely creditable 13th place.