Movistar romped to victory in the Vuelta a España’s opening team time trial, with TT specialist Jonathan Castroviejo crossing the line first to take the red leader’s jersey. Movistar – who also won the TTT two years ago in Pamplona – took victory by a six second margin over Cannondale, with Orica-GreenEDGE finishing third.
Since 2010 the Vuelta has kicked off with a team time trial, and has ratcheted up the excitement through novelties from bullring finishes to night-time racing. In this year’s edition, the organisers spiced up the action with nasty cobbled roads and a nightmarish procession of roundabouts in Jerez de la Frontera – the 2014 European City of Wine.
Traditionally team time trials divide teams into two, with a handful looking for victory and the rest seeking to limit their losses. But, hopefully foreshadowing what’s to come over the next three weeks, the opening stage didn’t go the way the pundits predicted. Early in the order an Orica-GreenEDGE team shorn of most of its big TT engines set the first important benchmark, though they were quickly beaten by Cannondale.
Subsequent teams – including those expected to challenge for the win – fell short of the mark, and one was left wondering whether they’d chosen caution over courage to protect their contenders. Chris Froome (Sky) had fallen during training on the course on Thursday, while all nine from Trek had crashed on a roundabout early today. Fortunately, there were no such mishaps during the stage.
Movistar were last off the ramp and were five seconds behind Cannondale at the midway time-check. But they rode an excellent second half to deliver Castroviejo into the red leader’s jersey and give their team leaders Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana an optimum start.
Expect second-placed Cannondale to target tomorrow’s stage. Peter Sagan needs just seven bonus seconds to take possession of the race lead.
Scores on the doors
Despite the brevity of the stage, the time-gaps between some of the favourites are larger than anticipated. Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) is 11 seconds back, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) 19 seconds, Cadel Evans and Samu Sanchez (both BMC) 21 seconds, Froome 27 seconds, Fabio Aru (Astana) 30 seconds and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) 38 seconds off señors Valverde and Quintana.
VeloVoices rider(s) of the day
Today was very much a team-effort, so I’m awarding the prize to surprise runners-up, Cannondale Pro Cycling. Many didn’t expect them to finish in the top five, let alone challenge for the victory. But the Italian outfit have a secret weapon – and no, it’s not Peter Sagan. Instead, it’s their coach Sebastian Weber, who is also coach to reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin (OPQS). Today his hard work has paid off big time.
— Cannondale Pro (@cannondalePro) 23 Août 2014
Stage 1 result
1. Movistar Team 14:13
2. Cannondale Pro Cycling +0:06
3. Orica-GreenEDGE same time
4. Trek Factory Racing +0:09
5. Omega Pharma-QuickStep +0:11
Race leader: Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar).
Points leader: n/a
King of the Mountains leader: n/a
Combined leader: n/a
Team classification: Movistar.
Header: Movistar in action (image: Movistar)