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Being the final team to start the stage, Movistar was in a class of its own in the opening Vuelta TTT, beating Cannondale by 6 seconds and putting Castroviejo in the first leader’s jersey

Photo: Sirotti

JONATHAN CASTROVIEJO

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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TEAM JAYCO ALULA (FORKERT)

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23.08.2014 @ 21:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Movistar, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde got the Vuelta a Espana off to a perfect start when the Spanish team took a dominant win in today’s opening team time trial. On a short 12.6km course in Jerez de la Frontera, the team beat Cannondale and Orica-GreenEDGE by 6 seconds and put Jonathan Castroviejo in the first leader’s jersey.

 

In 2012, Movistar won the opening team time trial of the Vuelta a Espana on a technical course in Pamplona. Back then, their main driving force was Jonathan Castroviejo who was the first rider across the line and took the first leader’s jersey of the race.

 

There was a feeling of déjà vu in the opener of the 2014 edition of the race which was again a short, technical team time trial. Again the Spanish team emerged as the strongest and as it was the case 2 years ago, Castroviejo crossed the line at the first rider to take the red jersey.

 

Movistar was the final team down the ramp and the final squad with any chance to beat Cannondale who had held a surprise lead for most of the day. At the time check, however, the Spanish team was only second, 5 seconds behind the Italians and it seemed that Damiano Caruso would become the first leader of the race.

 

The Spanish team had something left in the tank though and in the second part of the course, they were clearly the fastest. Distancing their Italian rivals by 11 seconds in the final section, they beat the Green Machine by 6 seconds to take a very comfortable victory in a stage where the time gaps were generally very small.

 

Orica-GreenEDGE underlined their status as one of the strongest teams in the discipline by taking third, just fractions of a second behind Cannondale. Pre-race favourites Trek and Omega Pharma-Quick Step struggled on the technical course and had to be content with 4th and 5th respectively.

 

For the GC riders, it was of course a very good day for Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde who got their race off to a perfect start. Chris Froome has more reason to be concerned as his Sky team could only manage 11th and he has already conceded 27 seconds to Quintana.

 

Alberto Contador got his race off to a decent start as Tinkoff-Saxo took 7th while Joaquim Rodriguez suffered the expected time loss as Katusha could only manage 16th. The Spaniard is already 38 seconds behind Quintana after just 12km of racing.

 

Castroviejo will get his first chance to wear his leader’s jersey in tomorrow’s second stage which is an almost completely flat run along the Andalucian coast. An opening category 3 climb will determine the first holder of the mountains jersey but the real challenge will be the wind that may pose a threat for the GC riders on a day when the sprinters are expected to rule.

 

A short, technical course

As usual, the Vuelta a Espana kicked off with a very technical team time trial. This year’s course was just 12.6km long and took the riders through no less than 20 roundabouts to present a challenge that was more about bike-handling skills than power.

 

The first team down the ramp was MTN-Qhubeka who made history by being the first African team to start the race. With a time of 14.42, the team set a first mark that was ultimately good enough for 12th.

 

Giant takes the lead

As expected, French teams Cofidis and Europcar were off the mark and they ended the day at the bottom of the rankings. Instead, it was Giant-Shimano who knocked MTN out of the hot seat, with Chad Haga leading them across the line in a time that was ultimately good enough for 6th.

 

Ag2r slotted into third while Caja Rural crossed the line in fourth at a time when 6 teams had finished their rides. IAM didn’t do much better, pushing the Spanish team down to 5th by a few seconds.

 

Best time for Cannondale

All eyes now were on Orica-GreenEDGE who had set the fastest time at the intermediate check and the Australians maintained the speed, lowered the mark by 9 seconds. Moments later, however, Cannondale powered across the line in a time that was just 0.4 seconds faster, putting Damiano Caruso into the virtual lead.

 

FDJ had a poor ride with a time that was ultimately good enough for 9th while Lampre-Merida did beter than expected, slotting into 4th. The focus was now on BMC who were among the favourites but the Americans could only manage 4th.

 

No glory for Trek

The biggest favourites, however, were Trek but at the halfway point they had already conceded 6 seconds to Cannondale. They manage to take back 3 seconds but when Fabian Cancellara led them across the line, they were only third fastest.

 

Belkin did a decent ride to slot into 5th while Garmin-Sharp proved that the days when they are among the strongest in this discipline are over.  The American team ended the day in 18th to get their race off to a bad start.

 

No win for Omega Pharma-Quick Step

Lotto Belisol slotted into 9th before being relegated to 10th by last year’s winners Astana who hadn’t brought their strongest specialists to the race. As expected, Rodriguez got his race off to a complicated start as Katusha could only manage 12th.

 

Already the time check, it was clear that Sky was not on a great day and at the finish they could only manage 8th. The focus was now on world champions Omega Pharma-Quick Step but  on a course that didn’t suit Tony Martin, they slotted into third.

 

Tinkoff-Saxo did a decent ride to take the provisional 6th place and now only Movistar could deny Cannondale a surprise win. At the time split, things looked good for the Italian team as they were five seconds faster than the Spaniards. However, Movistar had an extra gear and when Castroviejo led them across the line, they had taken the win with a 6-second margin.

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