VUELTA: Astana fastest in TTT in Grand Tour Opener


From a starting ramp made of clear glass on the sea front surrounded by boats, Astana mastered the sometimes tricky course for the team time trial to take the lead in the 2013 Tour of Spain

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After the Endura sponsored NetApp-Endura squad took the lead, sitting in the hot seat for a long time, it was the World Champions Omega Pharma-QuickStep (including Britain’s Andy Fenn) who first knocked them off the top step before RadioShack – Leopard Trek went faster still followed by Astana who now hold the leader’s jersey.

[pullquote]”From the moment I woke up, to the moment we crossed the line, everything went right. It’s nice to wear the red jersey after so much bad luck this season, and I am especially proud of how strong the team is. We are here to try and wear this jersey on the final day in Madrid, and today is a good indication of our intent,” Brajkovic said.[/pullquote]

Team NetApp-Endura finished seventh after all the teams had ridden and were once again the best ProContinental team in this discipline, 35 seconds shy of the time for Astana who were the only team under the 30-minute mark.

“The team was in perfect harmony from the very beginning” said Netapp-Endura’s Sport Director Enrico Poitschke. “No one made a mistake, everyone gave their very best. We looked at the course several times and knew what awaited us. Our guys ran a big risk even on the descents and were rewarded with this excellent ranking. We can be very satisfied with seventh place – it was a successful start,”

Astana on Top

But whilst Netapp-Endura had done enough to feel ‘winners’ in their own right, it was Astana who got to climb onto the top step of the podium. Astana’s Janez Brajkovic crossed the finish line first for the team at the end of the 27km racee from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo to become the first leader of the Grand Tour.

Brajkovic was one of six riders to finish together for Astana on a day when the fastest teams all lost riders along the route. “This was my lucky day” Brajkovic said.

“From the moment I woke up, to the moment we crossed the line, everything went right. It’s nice to wear the red jersey after so much bad luck this season, and I am especially proud of how strong the team is. We are here to try and wear this jersey on the final day in Madrid, and today is a good indication of our intent,” Brajkovic said.

Brajkovic, from Slovenia, was set to start the Giro d’Italia in May, but withdrew just before the start with a stomach virus. He raced six stages at the Tour de France in July but crashed badly and abandoned before the race came to the serious mountains. “After all I have gone through this season, up and down, stomach and crash, I am very relieved to be back in form, and very happy to be on this team,” Brajkovic said.

Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali, the designated leader and team captain, finished just behind Brajkovic, and raised his arm in the air triumphantly when he crossed the line. The Italian Giro d’Italia champion gained serious time on his most dangerous rivals on Saturday ahead of 13 upcoming mountain stages.

Cancellara and Martin fail to keep Astana at bay
Surprisingly, teams with the big engines like Quickstep and Radioshack failed to beat Astana. Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack Leopard Trek) said of his teams effort “We did what we had to do. Everyone did the maximum and that’s what counts in a team time trial. Of course, I pulled more than some of the others, but when we see that each rider gave their best and we see so much motivation from every rider, we can be very pleased with this result.”

“We are very happy with this performance from the team.” His teammate Chris Horner said of the rider, “I was kind of cross-eyed off the last descent because we had gaps opening up that we had to close down. It was Fabian pulling all the way on that descent into the finish. He did all of the work. My objective was to come here and do a good race. With the mountain stage tomorrow there is a chance to take the jersey.”

The World Time Trial (and TTT champion) Tony Martin led his team to the fastest 9km intermediate time (10’45”) and the 2nd fastest 20km intermediate time (+8″). “I think we had a pretty fast start” says Martin. “I don’t think it was wrong to start so fast”.

“We knew on the big road it’s a tailwind, so the opinion was to start fast. We had a good speed since the beginning, but unfortunately we lost a few guys after the technical downhill. We really needed to pay attention at the end with five riders left. But even though we always want to win at a team time trial, I still think 3rd is a good result. Because we came here with riders for the mountains, riders for the breaks, and also some sprinters.”

“We did this to have a balanced team in a three week race. We can be present in all the race situations, therefore we do not have a team strictly for the time trial. So, that should be taken into consideration before anything else and I think we did a great job with the team we have here.”

“This was also a difficult course and I already predicted many teams would explode on the road. I am happy in any case about my condition and with this race. I had really good legs today and I am looking forward to the next days. For me, it gave me some morale and I think everybody can be happy for their performance.”

In fourth place was Team Sky with 23-year-old Welshman Luke Rowe making his Grand Tour debut. Part of the six riders who crossed the line with team leaders Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán, Luke said on Twitter later, “Good start to Le Vuelta. 4th on the stage for us. Solid ride. Now time to turn into a mountain goat!”

La Vuelta gets right down to the business of climbing on Sunday with Stage 2. The stage begins in Pontevedra and ends uphill on Alto Do Monte Da Groba at 176.8 km.

1. Astana Pro Team 29:59
2. RadioShack – Leopard @0:10
3. Omega Pharma – Quick-Step 0:16 54.347 (inc Andy Fenn)
4. Sky Procycling @0:22 (inc Luke Rowe)
5. Movistar Team @0:29
6. Team Saxo-Tinkoff @0:32
7. Team NetApp – Endura @0:35 inc Paul Voss * Zak Dempster
8. BMC Racing Team @0:36
9. Orica GreenEDGE @0:45
10. Belkin Pro Cycling Team @0:49
11. Lampre – Merida @0:56
12. Katusha Team @0:59
13. Euskaltel – Euskadi @1:14
14. Lotto Belisol Team @ st
15. Vacansoleil – DCM @1:18
16. Equipe Cycliste @1:25
17. Cannondale Pro Cycling Team @1:26
18. Caja Rural-Seguros RGA @1:38
19. Garmin – Sharp @1:41
20. AG2R La Mondiale @ st
21. Team Argos – Shimano @1:53
22. Cofidis Solutions Crédits @1:55

1 BRAJKOVIc Janez Astana Pro Team 29:59
2 NIBALI Vincenzo Astana Pro Team @ st
3 TIRALONGO Paolo Astana Pro Team @ st
4 FUGLSANG Jakob Astana Pro Team @ st
5 GRIVKO Andriy Astana Pro Team @ st
6 KANGERT Tanel Astana Pro Team @ st
7 CANCELLARA Fabian RadioShack – Leopard 0:10
8 ZUBELDIA AGIRRE Haimar RadioShack – Leopard @ st
9 IRIZAR ARANBURU Markel RadioShack – Leopard @ st
10 KISERLOVSKI Robert RadioShack – Leopard @ st
11 HORNER Chris RadioShack – Leopard @ st
12 HERMANS Ben RadioShack – Leopard @ st
13 MARTIN Tony Omega Pharma – Quick-Step 0:16
14 MEERSMAN Gianni Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @ st
15 STYBAR Zdenek Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @ st
16 SERRY Pieter Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @ st
17 DE WEERT Kevin Omega Pharma – Quick-Step @ st
18 ROWE Luke Sky Procycling 0:22
19 ZANDIO ECHAIDE Xabier Sky Procycling @ st
20 HENAO MONTOYA Sergio Luis Sky Procycling @ st


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