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Etixx wins San Luis opener, Richeze takes lead

On a hot Monday afternoon in El Durazno, Argentina, Etixx – Quick-Step won the team time trial that kicked off the Tour de San Luis. The Belgian team raced the 21-kilometer course in 23 minutes, 53 seconds, edging out runner-up Movistar by 8 seconds. Astana rounded out the podium in third, 17 seconds behind Etixx.

With the win, Argentine Max Richeze took the overall race lead in his very first day in an Etixx jersey. The 32-year-old journeyman has been in the peloton for 10 years, with two stage wins in the 2007 Giro d’Italia serving as his best career results so far.

Stage 1 top 10

  • 1. Etixx – Quick Step, in 23:53
  • 2. Movistar Team, at :08
  • 3. Astana Pro Team, at :17
  • 4. Tinkoff, at :23
  • 5. Unitedhealthcare Professional Cycling Team, at :54
  • 6. Ag2R La Mondiale, at :56
  • 7. Delko Marseille Provence Ktm, at :58
  • 8. Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec, at :59
  • 9. Cannondale Pro Cycling Team, at :59
  • 10. Drapac Professional Cycling, at 1:00

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Maximiliano Ariel RICHEZE, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, in 23:53
  • 2. Rodrigo CONTRERAS, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 3. Lukasz WISNIOWSKI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 4. Fabio SABATINI, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 5. Fernando GAVIRIA RENDON, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :00
  • 6. Marc SOLER, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :08
  • 7. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :08
  • 8. Adriano MALORI, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :08
  • 10. Dayer Uberney QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :08

Drapac was the first team off the start line, registering a time of 24:53 that stood as the fastest through the early goings of the stage, before UnitedHealthcare came in six seconds faster. That lead held for a while, withstanding challenges from one national selection after another, and then even surviving several WorldTour teams, until Tinkoff set a new best time of 24:16.

However, Peter Sagan and company would not spend much time in the lead, as Etixx – Quick-Step knocked Tinkoff out of the hotseat a few minutes later.

After Astana and Cannondale failed to best Etixx, only Movistar remained, powered by TT specialist Adriano Malori and former overall winner Nairo Quintana. But the Spanish squad fell just short, handing Etixx its first win of 2016.

“Today was, let’s say, ‘a gift’ that the team gave me, allowing me to be first on the finish line, because this is my country,” Richeze said, emphasizing that moving forward, his objective is to help team sprinter Fernando Gaviria.

The team’s strong performance also sets up 21-year-old Rodrigo Contreras, winner of the youth classification in 2015, to do battle in the general classification.

Nairo Quintana said after the runner-up performance that the team had aimed to win the opening TTT, but he seemed pleased with the result, which put him ahead of all but Contreras among the potential overall contenders in San Luis.

“We are stronger in the heat, and we are hoping to continue in the same direction that we started,” Quintana said.

On Tuesday, stage 2 takes the race from San Luis to Villa Mercedes over 181.9km, a day that appears favorable for sprinters—though they’ll have to survive the heat. The forecast for the rest of the week calls for several days in the high 90s Fahrenheit.