Rome (AFP) – Chris Froome is nine seconds off the overall lead at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race after BMC won Wednesday’s opening team time-trial.
Italian Damiano Caruso will wear the first race leader’s blue jersey for the second year in a row as BMC beat Australian outfit Mitchelton-Scott by four seconds on the 21.5km course in Lido Di Camaiore.
Froome’s under-fire Team Sky were third at nine seconds.
“Today G (Geraint Thomas) and Chris put in good performances, stages three and four are very important and they look as though they are in good form,” said Sky sports director Matteo Tosatto.
It’s only the second time four-time Tour de France winner Froome has competed at the week-long Italian race after finishing second to Italian Vincenzo Nibali in 2013.
He is using it as preparation for May’s Giro d’Italia, which this year will begin in Jerusalem.
Froome’s participation is in doubt as he is under investigation for having given an abnormal doping test result at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, which he won.
He tested for elevated levels of asthma medication salbutamol, which can be taken legally in certain doses.
He is one of the favourites for overall victory at Tirreno-Adriatico, which ends on March 13.
Last month he began his season with a 10th-placed finish at the five-day Ruta del Sol in Spain.
Meanwhile, fellow Briton Mark Cavendish was ruled out of the race with a broken rib after crashing during the time-trial.
“Unfortunately Mark was involved in a crash with about 5km to go in today’s team time trial,” said Dimension Data team doctor Jarrad van Zuydam.
“He came down pretty hard at around 55km/h and he sustained multiple abrasions and soft tissue injuries to his knees, hips, hands and some swelling on his face as well; but he had a lot of rib pain which we went to x-ray, and found that he has a fracture of the seventh rib on the right side.”
The crash came just two weeks after 32-year-old Cavendish suffered concussion in a fall at the Tour of Abu Dhabi.
This was his first race back since then.