Sky had a slow run in the season’s first team time trial today at the Tirreno-Adriatico in Marina di Carrara, Italy. Its eight-man team placed midway down a field of 20 teams.

“We didn’t go fast enough, basically,” said sports director, Marcus Ljungqvist. “I can’t be upset, I am sure the guys gave 100 per cent. We will talk about it to see what really didn’t go well.”

Sky finished on the podium twice last year in the discipline: second at the Giro d’Italia and first at the Tour of Qatar. Today, it finished ninth, 33 seconds back from winner Rabobank.

The 16.8-kilometre time trial today was flat, along Italy’s west coast in Tuscany. Rabobank was the first team to star and Sky, starting 15th, was able to race against its time of 18’08”.

As with Rabobank, it discarded some of its men prior to the finish. Sprinter Chris Sutton did a hard effort before pulling off with nearly two kilometres remaining. The winning time is taken on the fifth cyclist across the line.

“I think we lost some time in the city, coming out of the corners,” added Ljungqvist. “It wasn’t super smooth and the speed wasn’t what we wanted to see, but that is easy to say when you are watching from the car.”

Ljungqvist is now concerned with the Thomas Löfkvist’s 33-second deficit to Rabobank’s Robert Gesink. In such a short stage race, the time loss may prevent Löfkvist’s chances of winning the race overall. To pull back time, Löfkvist has the weekend’s mountain stages and the final stage, an individual time trial on Tuesday.

“There are still stages to come to take the time back.”

The Swede finished fourth overall in 2009 and third in 2008.

“Thomas has been aiming at Tirreno for a long time. He will be our main guy for the GC. Steve Cummings has showed excellent form lately, he will be our wild card, for sure.”

Löfkvist will likely also be Sky’s leader for the three-week Giro d’Italia in May. He’ll need to be prepared, though, as the race starts in Turin with a team time trial.

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