The Tour de France lasts three weeks and covers 3,480km this year, but every second won or lost on the road to Paris is precious, and those won or lost in the team time trial weigh heavier than most as they come early in the race. Any gains that could be made on stage 2 on Sunday would be a huge boost to morale; any losses would weigh heavy under the knowledge that they will have to pulled back, making the rest of the Tour an uphill battle even before the Pyrenees and Alps appear.
Jumbo-Visma smashed the Brussels team time trial and their rivals on the Tour's second day, winning the stage by 20 seconds ahead of Team Ineos, extending Mike Teunissen's lead to 30 seconds and filling the top five overall. As his Jumbo-Visma teammates enjoyed a day of celebration, team leader Steven Kruijswijk can now look down on his overall rivals from third place in the general classification. Below him is the first battlefield of the 2019 Tour de France, with a range of winners and losers.
Some riders, including Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal of Team Ineos, gained time on many of their overall rivals, even if they lost time to Kruijswijk, while the hopes and ambitions of Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) took a beating, and are perhaps already beyond repair.
In between the winners and losers, the first 'virtual general classification' of the 2019 Grande Boucle – comparing just the overall contenders' times – highlights the better performances and several surprise performances against the clock.
Virtual GC after stage 2
Winners and losers
The time gaps are relatively small for now, and the racing in the mountains will surely make them much wider, but they turn the rest of the Tour into a handicap race.
Jumbo-Visma were the only team to go below the 29-minute barrier as they raced at an average of 57.202kph. As EF Education First road captain Simon Clarke pointed out, the next five teams finished in the space of eight seconds, indicating the stand-out performance of Jumbo-Visma.
Those next best five teams can be considered to be the winners of the day, who will let out a sigh of relief and be upbeat as the Tour heads to France on Monday for a stage into Epernay and the champagne region. But the 'losers' – the teams that lost more than 30 seconds to Thomas and Bernal – know that they now have work to do.
Team Ineos were disappointed to miss out yet again on victory at the Tour team time trial, but can take heart from their time gains in the virtual overall classification.
Enric Mas (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) are all within 30 seconds of the Team Ineos duo.
Deceuninck-QuickStep were targeting stage victories on both of the Brussels stages in the hope of wearing the yellow jersey at home in Belgium, but came up short, with the timekeepers revealing they finished just 0.82 of a second behind Team Ineos. Third may be disappointing, but their GC man Enric Mas was perhaps smiling quietly amongst the gloom on the Belgian team bus after limiting his losses.
Thibaut Pinot must also be happy. He had the help of Stefan Kung, and the Swiss time triallist played a huge role, helping drag the French team to eighth place, just 12 seconds slower than Team Ineos. Key mountain domestique David Gaudu crashed in the final kilometre, and the team gasped when they saw a lot of blood on his hand; fortunately he was not seriously hurt.
Yates and Fuglsang lost 21 seconds, but can also be satisfied, especially the Dane, who started with stitches in his forehead and some pain after his crash on stage 1. Uran's form is unknown after his quiet early season and collarbone fracture at Paris-Nice, but he also remains within touching distance. So does young Bora-Hansgrohe duo Patrick Konrad and Emanuel Buchmann.
A millstone around their necks
Four GC riders lost more than a minute to Jumbo-Visma, and so more than 40 seconds to Team Ineos, putting a millstone around their necks at this early stage of the race.
Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) was somewhat satisfied to only lose close to a minute, while Quintana and Landa (Movistar) also tried to see a positive side to their time losses. All three perhaps know that they have the aggression and climbing skills to potential take some of it back in the mountains – perhaps starting on the stage 6 finish to La Planche des Belle Filles. It is their only hope.
Romain Bardet and AG2R La Mondiale had set themselves the goal of losing less than 1:30 to Team Ineos, as if such a margin could somehow be considered a victory. The real measure of their failure is their 19th place on the stage: the slowest of all the teams targeting the overall classification.
The Frenchman is already 59 seconds down on Thomas and Bernal. He finished 2:20 down on Chris Froome in 2017 when he was third overall, and so that is perhaps a better perspective of his time loss. It could impossible to pull back.
Porte faired a little better – albeit only one second better – and will surely not be happy with Trek-Segafredo's 18th place. The veteran Australian tried to look to the future and the mountains, summing up the sentiments and hopes of all the TTT 'losers'.
"There's still a long way to go," Porte argued after his ride. "We've done a full recon of the Tour de France. The Pyrenees are always hard, but this year the last three stages in the Alps are brutal. It's never nice to lose time in the TTT, but the last week is where the Tour will be won."