The Australian registered outfit emerged in a good position from the tricky second stage with the veteran climber sitting sixth overall while Colombian team-mate Esteban Chaves had a comfortable finish in the second group of favourites to finish 13th on the stage and on GC.
Nieve didn't quite have the legs to go with Stage winner Nairo Quintana when the Movistar rider attacked three kilometres out from the finish but his position means Mitchelton-Scott remains solidly in contention with cards to play when the race hardens up.
“I was not thinking of the stage win until the final, because it was a really strong group," Nieve said. “The hard climb was really hard, and the group was really small so I thought I would go up there and, like this, Esteban [Chaves] can just sit on the wheel and it’s more comfortable for him.
“But in the final, when they said the gap I started to think that maybe it would arrive to the finish and I had to keep more energy.
“In the end, in a roundabout, I lost the wheel because I almost crashed. That ruined my possibilities which was a bit sad but I’m happy with the legs that I had and it’s a good way to start.”
Chaves is the Mitchelton-Scott protected rider for the Vuelta with expectations of a place on the podium remain intact. Only 51 seconds separate him from overall leader Nicholas Roche (Sunweb) and he remains well within range of riders like compatriots Quintana and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First).
“Mikel had a bit of bad luck there when he slipped on the roundabout which is really unfortunate but the indications are good, the signs are good and the fact that he was in that group, was a really positive sign," said Sports Director Julian Dean.
“It meant that we could just sit back and let the race unfold a little bit. It’s always hard on the first road stage on a Grand Tour, the day after a team time trial, but it’s a good indication that all of our riders were there where they needed to be and on the mark.”
Stage 3 of the Vuelta a Espana runs 188km from Ciudad del Juguete to Alicante and with only two small climbs and a descent to the finish, it's one which will suit the sprinters. Among the favourites will be a red hot Sam Bennett (BORA-hansgrohe), Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates) and Deceuninck-Quick Step's Fabio Jakobsen.