VUELTA: Stage 1 – Team Time Trial

Leopard Trek wins the opening battle in Spain as Sky have a bad day at the office and lose 42 seconds on the leaders.

Leopard Trek took victory in the opening team time trial at the Vuelta a Espana to put Jakob Fuglsang into the race lead. Jakob Fuglsang led the other four riders across the finish in Benidorm to assume the honor of the first race leader. It is the first time Fuglsang has donned the leader’s jersey at a Grand Tour. “Our goal today was simply to do a good time trial,” said Fuglsang. “We knew if we did a good time trial we could win. This is a really special moment for the team — and for me, to pull on the leader’s jersey at the Grand Tour, that’s amazing.”

Four Time World Time Trial Champion Fabian Cancellara called the victory the most beautiful time trial win of his career. “I have had many time trial wins. This is the most amazing victory. It’s also the most exciting and surprising,” said Cancellara. “Accomplishing a win like this as a team is really something special.”

“Honestly, I’m stunned,” said Stuart O’Grady as he waited to walk onto the podium with his teammates. “We thought we had done a good time trial, but I didn’t necessarily feel like it was a winning day. We were fast the whole time, that’s for sure. We are really shocked in a good way. This is incredible.”

The team had prepared a plan that included a shared workload of the non-time trial specialists in the first half of the course. The plan was derailed when Davide Viganò and Robert Wagner crashed. “The plan was to have Wagner and Viganò sit on the wheels for the climb,” said Sports Director Lars Michaelsen. “We would save them for the descent that followed and the first part of the flat. We had selected [Thomas] Rohregger and [Oliver] Zaugg to really go for it on the climb and then see how long they could stay with the team. We anticipated that our stronger time trialists like Maxime [Monfort], Stuart [O’Grady], Jakob, Benna [Daniele Bennati] and, of course, Fabian [Cancellara] would be able to handle the work in the second half of the stage.”

“After 3.7 kilometers, there is a u-turn, and we had Viganò and Wagner miss the turn. Viganò crashed and Wagner could not avoid running into him,” continued Michaelsen. “There was no harm done to them, but we were only seven from that point. Really, we were almost like only five since we had used up Rohregger and Zaugg on the climbs. We were without Viganò and Wagner on the part where they were to keep up the speed. Even without them, we managed. The guys just had to dig really deep.”

O’Grady swung out from the group with 1.7 kilometers to go, and Rohregger managed to hold onto wheels to the finish. “Internally, we had a bit of discussion about who would cross the line first,” said Michaelsen. “In the end, I think everybody forgot about that part of the plan. Nobody had a clear head to think about who we had determined should go over the line first. We were pushing them all the way to the line from the car, and we didn’t bother reminding them. In a way, it’s a coincidence that Jakob crossed the line first.”

It’s a coincidence with special significance for the Sports Director. “Until today, I was the only Danish rider to have worn the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta,” noted Michaelsen. “In 1997, I won the first stage and held onto the jersey for four days. It has been longer than I thought it would be that somebody would came and take the jersey. It’s a nice experience to be part of passing along the leader’s jersey to the second Danish rider to wear it.”

“Everyone prepared well for the day,” said Michaelsen. “The riders previewed the course three times, and everybody did what they had to to earn this victory. The whole team — the sports directors, the mechanics, the soigneurs, and, of course, the riders –gave 100% to see the team stand on the podium together.”

Michaelson looks forward to defending the jersey. The second stage should see a bunch sprint near the Mediterranean coast. The time bonuses on offer at two intermediate sprints and the finish line will make for an explosive race between La Nucía and Playas de Orihuela. “We have the responsibility of defending the jersey tomorrow,” said Michaelsen. “It is a responsibility and an honor. We’ll go into the stage with a clear plan and see how things play out during the race.”

Team Sky

Team Sky endured a difficult start to the race and dropped time following a crash in the opening stages. Team Sky’s Chris Sutton said afterwards “That wasn’t the best of starts to be honest. We’d gone over everything a lot in the past few days and thought we had it down to a tee. We’d changed the order a few times and got it perfect, and we started out great. Kurt led us out because he’s so experienced at these things.”

“We began by taking things easy, but not too easy, set a good tempo, and it was all going well until there was a touch of wheels or something which meant Zandio had to unclip. Kurt also crashed at that point which was hard because it meant everyone behind him had to chase a couple of bike-lengths to get back on. We regrouped as best we could and gave it everything, and although we lost 42 seconds, over a three-week race that’s going to be insignificant. It would’ve been nice if we could have got a result for Bradley, but we all gave it 100% and that’s all you can ask for at the end of the day.”

“Zandio deserves special praise because he did brilliantly to get back on after unclipping. He gave a huge effort to chase up that hill and having him there with us was a big bonus.”

“Tomorrow’s stage is one that I’ll be looking to do well in as a sprinter. I’m feeling strong so I’ll try and get in the mix and test out the legs and see how I go. I’ve done a few sprints in training over the past few days and have been hitting some good numbers, but obviously in a race situation after 174km anything can happen. I’d love to get a stage win but there’s so many good sprinters here so we’ll have to see. I’m just grateful to get the opportunity to get the chance to go toe-to-toe with those guys in a Grand Tour.”

Steven de Jongh, Team Sky Sports Director “It was a really tough start. We lost Kurt after a kilometre. He came down and Zandio was also held up. Xabier had to chase down the group after that and then in the final we were down with four guys. Some positive things are that Kurt is looking really fit and Bradley is looking super strong.”

“If you look at the overall picture with some of the main contenders Bradley lost some time but to most of them he lost around 20-25 seconds. It is a loss of course and we aren’t happy with it but it could be worse. Everyone is okay so we will carry on and try to make up for it.”


Garmin-Cervélo meanwhile, with former British Junior RR Chamion Dan Martin, rode to ninth place, doing its best on a technical, unconventional team time trial course. “It was not your typical team time trial course,” said Garmin-Cervélo sport director Bingen Fernández.

“It was very difficult for the riders to get a rhythm. There were many curves, traffic circles, tight roads and hills. It was not a course that anyone felt comfortable on.” Garmin-Cervélo placed its two leaders, Daniel Martin and Christophe Le Mevel, with the five minimum riders needed to cross the finish line.

The 66th Vuelta continues Sunday with the 174km second stage from La Nucía to Playas de Orihuela. A sprint finale is all but assured. “We can expect your typical first road stage, with an early break, but everyone chasing it down to set up the sprint,” Fernández said. “We have options. We will decide day to day how we can split up the sprints. It depends on who’s feeling good on the day, and that’s how we will take the race.”

Dangerous Course?
BMC Racing Team Assistant Director Rik Verbrugghe called his team’s performance “respectable” on a course that many deemed technical and even dangerous in spots. “I told the guys that it wasn’t today that we would do something,” Verbrugghe said. “The real start of the race is tomorrow. I told them not to take any risks on the downhill.” Team Leopard Trek won with a time of 16:30. Swiss national time trial champion Martin Kohler said the first kilometers – which were uphill – were also dangerous. “On the climbs, there were lots of turns, lots of wind and gravel on the road,” Kohler said. “The downhill was tricky, too. The most important part was that we stayed safe.”

Twitter Twitter

Mark Cavendish tweeted “Well, I was right! Went so deep to stay with team on climb, only to lose them at U-turn at VERY TOP #ironic. Sorry to the lads. We were 3rd”. BMC’s Taylor Phinney said “Ouch, that hurt! Gave it everything I had… We have some work to do but all in good time. @manuelquinziato had quite the freaky crash!”


Team Result
1. Leopard Trek 13.5km kilometres in 16:30
2. Liquigas-Cannondale @ 4  secs
3. HTC-Highroad @ 09  secs
4. Pro Team Astana @ 10  secs
5. Movistar Team @ 14  secs
6. Quickstep     @15  secs
7. Skil – Shimano     @ 18  secs
8. Omega Pharma-Lotto      @ 18  secs
9. Team Garmin-Cervelo     @ 25  secs
10. Katusha @ 25  secs
11. BMC @27  secs
12. Euskaltel-Euskadi @28  secs
13. Saxo Bank Sungard      @28  secs
14. RadioShack @29  secs
15. Rabobank     0:00:30  secs
16. Lampre – ISD  @32  secs
17. Cofidis @ 33 secs
18. Vacansoleil-DCM @39  secs
19. AG2R La Mondiale     @42  secs
20. Sky Procycling           @42  secs
21. Geox-TMC         @43  secs
22. Andalucia Caja Granada     @1:03

1. Jakob Fuglsang Leopard Trek  16:30
2. Fabian Cancellara Leopard Trek
3. Maxime Monfort Leopard Trek
4. Thomas Rohregger Leopard Trek
5. Daniele Bennati Leopard Trek
6. Peter Sagan Liquigas-Cannondale  00:04
7. Damiano Caruso Liquigas-Cannondale
8. Eros Capecchi Liquigas-Cannondale
9. Valerio Agnoli Liquigas-Cannondale
10. Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Cannondale

58. Daniel Martin Team Garmin-Cervelo  @20
68. Taylor Phinney BMC Racing Team  27
126. Nicolas Roche AG2R La Mondiale  @ 42
130. Christopher Froome Sky Procycling @ 42
132. Ian Stannard Sky Procycling  @42
133. Bradley Wiggins Sky Procycling @42
190. Mark Cavendish HTC-Highroad  2:45

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