Vuelta a España: Stage 1 review

Stage 1: Pamplona, 16.5km team time trial

With the red jersey metaphorically dangled in front of them, it was Movistar who stampeded through the stunning streets of Pamplona to take the opening team time trial. Jonathan Castroviejo – riding his first ever Grand Tour stage – took the honour of leading the general classification and the first leader’s red jersey of the 2012 race.

The early runners looked more like weary old dairy cattle than primed Spanish Fighting Bulls, with the Pro Continental team Caja Rural team having the honour of rolling off the start ramp first. Garmin-Sharp came not long after, and despite being billed as one of the favourites to win the stage, a crash spelled the end of their charge, the American outfit undone by the tricky and technical course.

The big WorldTour teams followed, with BMC taking the lead before being narrowly knocked off the top by Rabobank, who would hold on to the lead until the death. Omega Pharma-Quick Step came within a second of toppling the Dutchmen, with Sky and Lotto-Belisol two seconds behind, and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank another couple further back. But Rabobank clung to their meagre advantage right until the very last team crossed the line.

The Spanish Movistar team, headed by last year’s winner Juan Jose Cobo, were the last team to start, and didn’t seem to have the time-trialling prowess to take the win. Lars Boom must have been rubbing his hands in glee, whilst the Rabobank transfers were being pressed on to the leader’s jersey. But, much to the delight of the home crowd, they pulled off a shock win, taking a mammoth ten seconds out of the leaders. Jonathan Castroviejo crossed the line first, taking the race lead in the process.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Castroviejo won on his  Grand Tour debut (image courtesy of Movistar)

A boring choice, but I’m going to give rider of the day to race leader Jonathan Castroviejo.

The Basque time trial specialist moved to Movistar from Euskaltel-Euskadi for this season, and seems to be reaping the rewards. He has taken the first overall race win of his career in the Vuelta a la Comunidad de Madrid and finished sixth overall at the recent Eneco Tour.

He now leads his home Grand Tour – the first of his career – whilst in the form of his life. It can’t get much better!

After the stage, he said:

This is a beautiful moment of my life. At the meeting this morning, we didn’t speak about who should cross the line first. We only mentioned that it was a very difficult finale with cobblestones. We thought it would be tight at the end, so we’ve given 100%. It’s marvellous.


There isn’t much I noticed other than the beauty of Pamplona and the rather intriguing finishing line, situated within the Plaza de Toros de Pamplona bull-ring, but Movistar’s achievements in taking today’s win can’t be overlooked.

They are a strong climbing outfit, with the likes of Alejandro Valverde and Benat Inxausti riding their home race. Both are decent time-trialists, but not who you would expect to be winning an opening prologue of a Grand Tour. Perhaps the firepower of quick men Castroviejo and Jose Joaquin Rojas helped them blitz the short course.

Tactical analysis

With most of the top teams finishing close together – behind Movistar, the next seven teams are tightly packed between 10 and 15 seconds in arrears – the opening stage is unlikely to seriously influence the GC battle. Even the usually chaotic Euskaltel-Euskadi put in an impressive showing to finish just 28 seconds off the pace. Only Garmin-Sharp, hampered by a mid-stage crash, will be disappointed with their effort as they finished 21st out of the 22 teams, 1:28 behind – and even then the damage feels less severe as their main man Andrew Talansky was never going to threaten the big guns.

Ominously for his rivals, Alberto Contador took noticeably long turns on the front as his Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank kept themselves impressively in touch, 15 seconds behind. Depending on your viewpoint, that either underlines the Spaniard’s individual form, or exposes the relative lack of strength in his team. Chris Froome and Joaquim Rodriguez, on the other hand, demanded less of themselves as their Sky and Katusha units looked more balanced, reassuring them of strong support when they need it.

The opening forays have been made, to little effect. The real race starts tomorrow.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of as many stages as possible on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Vuelta a España official website

Vuelta a España: Team presentation (a VeloVoices gallery)

In addition to our army of VeloEyes bringing us images of the races and riders we love, we’re not averse to getting in the mix ourselves and getting our own personal shots of our favourite races. Here Sheree has collated her pictures from last night’s Vuelta team presentations. Enjoy!

Yesterday’s evening’s Vuelta a España team presentation kicked off in sweltering temperatures in the very heart of Pamplona, the Plaza del Castillo, used as a bull-fighting ring until a permanent venue was built in 1844. The only stampede yesterday was for the seats in front of the stage. Not everyone looked hot and bothered, Navarra and Spain’s favourite sporting icon, Miguel Indurain, gave us his thoughts on this year’s Vuelta, looking as cool as a cucumber, in a jacket!

The team presentation was a bit parochial. Not Spanish, no Spanish riders, no contenders then you just entered left, waved briefly and exited right. To be fair the commentators had to respond to the dicatates of an hour-long programme on Spanish television, plus squeeze in highlights from last year’s Vuelta, a quick run-down of this year’s stages and a travel promo for Navarra.

First up local boys Caja Rural

First up: local boys Caja Rural

It's the Argonauts

It’s the Argonauts

More blinding while kits with the boys from FDJ

More blinding white kits with the boys from FDJ

Now it's the hot pink of Lampre

Now it’s the hot pink of Lampre

RadioShack read our Team Review and have wisely made Maxime Monfort their lead rider

RadioShack read our team review and have wisely made Maxime Monfort (left) their lead rider

OPQS’ Tony Martin (left) hoping for better luck in the Vuelta

Orica-GreenEDGE’s Daniel Teklehaimanot didn’t seem to mind the heat either!

Euskaltel’s Igor Anton, a firm favourite with the fans

Cheers too for cheeky Catalan chappie Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez

It’s the boys from BMC who have PhilGil (far left) as their lead rider!

Newly shorn Christophe Le Mevel looking Garmin-Sharp and ready to do battle

Cofidis’ man for the mountains David Moncoutie

Will Sky’s Chris Froome (far left) really challenge?

Saxo Bank’s Alberto Contador (left) happy to be back in the saddle

The biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for Alberto Contador who reiterated his pitch-perfect PR press conference from earlier in the day where he downplayed his chances and talked up everyone else’s. He said he’d been scarred by the events of the past two years but had emerged mentally stronger. He also paid tribute to the support of fans, family and friends and said how much he was looking forward to the start in Navarro.

Last up was defending champion Juan Jose Cobo, now riding for Navarran-based Movistar. He’ll be well-supported by Alejandro Valverde, two Basques and, this year’s must-have accessory, a Colombian in the form of Nairo Quintano.

Local boys Movistar with defending champion Cobo (far left)

We’ll be back in the Plaza del Castillo this evening for the team time trial.

VeloVoices Vuelta a Espana previews

Teams and sponsors (part 1)

Teams and sponsors (part 2)

Key stages

Key contenders

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website

Vuelta a España: Stage 1 preview

Stage 1: Pamplona, 16.5km team time trial

There’s nothing quite like the sight of a team riding in perfect harmony together and this opening stage of the Vuelta is short and pan-flat but technical so should be a joy to watch. Using part of the route that bulls use when they run through the streets, the teams finish in the city’s bull-ring – this is Spain after all – and the first team goes out at about 7pm local time. Look for Garmin-Sharp, Sky and Orica-GreenEDGE to be in contention for the stage win and the first red jersey. That said, the short length of the parcours means even a team that comes a cropper won’t end the evening with an insurmountable deficit.

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website