Crikey! Just as I was thinking the most notable feature of La Vuelta’s opening team time trial was the salt-bedecked starting ramp, chaos ensued at the tail end of the stage. On a short and highly technical 13.4km course Astana were slick, swift and decisive, despite unhitching their leader mid-way through, to take stage victory and place Miguel Angel Lopez in the red jersey. Disaster struck Jumbo Visma at the midway point when water on the road caused most of the team to crash into the barriers. They collected themselves well, but red-hot race favourite Primoz Roglic still finds himself 40secs adrift before sight of a mountain. Deceuninck-Quick Step pushed the men in turquoise close, crossing the line only two seconds slower. A time that surely would have been faster if they hadn’t had to dodge around the Jumbo Visma team car parked on the course. You can’t say the Vuelta opening wasn’t spicy.
When twitter captures chaos better than a thousand words. Thank goodness there was nothing worse than road rash after this.
They weren’t the only team caught in the water debacle, UAE Team Emirates also hit the deck
Where did the water come from?
How the Quicksteppers came around the corner and avoided the Jumbo team car I will never know.
Jumbo Bee nightmare start aside, there will be other GC riders picking salt from their wounds. The final corner caused many teams to hit the brakes and lose momentum in the crucial final metres. Team Ineos and Cofidis both came to grief here to finish outside the top 10. On the other side of the coin, a huge shout out to EF Education First for their fabulous fourth place.
It was an unexpectedly adroit performance and leaves the likes of Hugh Carthy and Rigoberto Uran sitting pretty. They so very nearly took the VeloVoices top prize, but were just pipped by….
Team of the RaceEmbed from Getty Images
On a short course packed full of sharp-angled corners you had to be smooth and synchronous. Or as the inimitable Sean Kelly put it – “keep it tidy, keep it close”. Astana did precisely that and deserved their victory and multiple trips to the podium. With only two seconds advantage over Quicksteppers Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar whether they will keep the red jersey is another matter. Here’s what Jakob Fuglsang had to say
I told the boys before the stage: I’ve started La Vuelta twice with a team time trial, and I’ve won it twice. And now we’ve made it three. I’m really happy things worked out well to keep this statistic going. I don’t think we have to defend the jersey with everything we have. I imagine Deceuninck-Quick Step will try to take it from us as they’re so close but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to lose the jersey. The first day will be nervous and it’s not an easy stage so we’ll see tomorrow
Something a little bit special
La Vuelta is always that little bit different from its Grand Tour cousins. Throws in that extra bit of to spice the whole three weeks up. Mountain-top finishes galore and more than enough leg-breaking, eyewatering ascents to keep the swiftest of climbers smiling. Reasons for the speedsters to keep their fast twitch muscles in working order over the whole race.
The difference becomes more than apparent right from the get go with the opening team time trial. In the past, the peloton have been faced with starting ramps suspended over the sea, and who could forget the mind-boggling beach run featuring every kind of surface available?!?
This year, the teams took to a sparkling ramp built from salt, at the edge of a pink-hued lagoon in Torrevieja, a town famed for salt production. Which made for some stunning opening shots.
The last Grand Tour of the year is also the only one to feature its own official song. This year we have rap, and I don’t mean anything like the Astana Team offering. For those that can’t stop tapping to the Spanish beat, you can find all the other Vuelta tunes here
New kit for Caja Rural
I LOVE it…so fresh and cool. Perfect for La Vuelta
August is like the Sunday of summer
1 Astana 14:51
2 Deceuninck- Quick Step) +0:05
3 Team Sunweb +0.05
4 EF-Education First +0.07
5 BORA-hansgrohe +13secs
1 Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) 14:51
2 Dario Cataldo (Astana) same time
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) s/t
4 Ion Izaguirre (Astana) s/t
5 Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) s/t
6 Gorka Izaguirre (Astana) s/t
7 Philippe Gilbert (Deceuninck-Quick Step) +0.02
8 Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-Quick Step) same time
9 Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) s/t
10 Maximiliano Richeze (Deceuninck-Quick Step) s/t
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Points jersey: not awarded
Climber’s jersey: not awarded
Young Rider’s jersey: Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana)
Team classification: Astana
Header image: © Tim de Waale Getty Images