Astana claimed better weather, less cobblestones and rival teams' superior preparation meant they were unable to exploit stage four of the Tour de France.
Astana claimed better weather, less cobblestones and rival teams' superior preparation meant they were unable to exploit Tuesday's stage four of the Tour de France.
Last year, Astana were the big winners of the Tour's cobblestone-based stage, with Vincenzo Nibali finishing third behind Lars Boom (then of Belkin) and team-mate Jakob Fuglsang to claim the yellow jersey.
Nibali never relinquished yellow on his way to his maiden Tour title, and when the 2015 route was announced, the inclusion of pav sections on stage four prompted many pundits to predict a strong day for the 30-year-old Italian, who also had Boom on his side this year.
But both Nibali and Astana sporting director Giuseppe Martinelli conceded a number of factors held the Kazakhstan-based team back on Tuesday.
Nibali finished in a large group that included general classification rivals Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), three seconds behind winner Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step), who claimed the yellow jersey.
"We haven't changed anything compared to last year - only the weather has changed," Nibali told reporters after the day's racing.
"It was dry, so it was less dangerous than last year and it wasn't possible to create difference because we were riding in only one direction."
Martinelli added: "I think all of the teams were a bit better prepared compared to last year, the cobbles weren't as difficult as last year and the good weather changed everything too.
"If you don't have luck on your side, not a lot can happen in a situation like that. Lars Boom punctured on the second section of cobbles too, and we lost an important man. In the end, the main thing was that nothing happened to Vincenzo."
Tuesday's results leave Nibali in 13th position overall - one minute, 50 seconds adrift of Martin.
With Froome second and Contador eighth, Nibali knows he has some work to do over the next two-and-a-half weeks but he will not go down without a fight.
"There's a gap to make up on Alberto and Froome but we'll see day after day and if there's a chance for us to attack, we'll try to take it," he said.