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In a dramatic team time trial, Sky beat Movistar by just 0.2 second in the first stage of the Vuelta a Espana and put Kennaugh into the red jersey; Contador lost almost a minute to Froome and Quintana

Photo: Sirotti

MITCHELTON-SCOTT

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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PETER KENNAUGH

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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20.08.2016 @ 20:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome and Team Sky got the Vuelta a Espana off to the best possible start as the British team won a thrilling opening team time trial in a close battle with key rivals Movistar. Stopping the clock on the lumpy 27.8km course in 30.37.4, they were just 0.2 second faster than the Spaniard and so Peter Kennaugh who was first across the line, is the first leader of the race. Alberto Contador and Tinkoff had a difficult day as they lost 52 seconds in 8th place.

 

One year ago, Team Sky missed out on a very prestigious team time trial win at the Tour de France when they were beaten by less than a second by BMC. The frustrating near-miss made the team extra motivated for today’s opening test against the clock at the Vuelta a Espana where they had the chance to win their first TTT in a grand tour since the 2013 Giro.

 

In recent years, team time trials have been extremely close and many will remember that the TTTs at the 2013 Tour, 2015 Tour and 2013 Worlds were decided by less than a second. Today’s stage in Spain turned out to be equally thrilling and this time the margins were in favour of the Brits.

 

Captain Chris Froome could not have asked for a better start to his second grand tour as Team Sky came out on top in an exciting battle with key rivals Movistar. On the lumpy 27.8km course in Galicia, the team was just 0.2 second faster than the Spaniards but it was enough to take the win.

 

Sky were the penultimate team to start and it was always evident that they were in contention. They were third at both time checks but at both points, they were faster than Movistar who is well-known as slow starters and fast finishers in TTTs. They trailed BMC and Orica-BikeExchange by just a handful of seconds and they managed to turn everything around in the final part, just beating Movistar with the smallest of margins. Peter Kennaugh led his teammates Salvatore Puccio, Leopold König, Michael Kwiatkowski and Froome across the line and to salvage an injury-marred season by becoming the first leader of the race.

 

The result was frustrating for Movistar who were in track for third TTT win in five years and they could smell the win when the beat Orica-BikeExchange by six seconds. However, Alejandro Valverde missed out on another red jersey in a frustrating near-miss. However, both Valverde and Nairo Quintana can be pleased to have gained time on most of their rivals.

 

Esteban Chaves was another big winner as Orica-BikeExchange did surprisingly well with third place, just six seconds off the mark. As opposed to this, world champions BMC were visibly disappointed with fourth place, seven seconds shy of the win. However, Samuel Sanchez still gained time on most of his rivals.

 

Etixx-QuickStep confirmed their status as specialists with a solid fifth place and Steven Kruijswijk can slo be pleased as he and LottoNL-Jumbo lost 28 seconds with 6th place. The big loser was Alberto Contador as Tinkoff could only manage 8th and the three-time winner of the race is now already 52 seconds behind both Froome and Quintana.

 

Andrew Talansky and Cannondale can be pleased with 8th place while there is frustration in the Astana camp. Captain Miguel Lopez dropped his chain in the early kiloemtres and the entire team had to wait for the Colombian. That cost a lot of time and the Kazakhs had to settle for 11th with a loss of 58 seconds.

 

The big winner of the day was of course Kennaugh who is now the leader of the race. He will wear the red jersey in tomorrow’s first road stage where the sprinters are expected to come to the fore. The terrain is mainly flat but there is a tough category 3 climb at the midpoint and two uncategorized ascents inside the final 50km which could make things harder than expected. Furthermore, the wind could come into play as the final part of the stage is held along the coast. However, the final 10km are flat and so most expect the fast finishers to get their first chance.

 

A lumpy course

As it has become a tradition, the 2016 Vuelta a Espana kicked off with a team time trial but this year the stage was longer than usual. The riders covered 27.8km from the Provincia Termal in Ourense to the nearby Parque Nutico de Castrelo Miño. There were two smaller climbs along the way, most notably a hard ascent right from the start, but otherwise the terrain was largely flat. There were mostly straight roads but the stage was more technical in the finale.

 

The riders had excellent sunny conditions when Bora-Argon 18 rolled down the ramp in Ourense to kick off the 2016 Vuelta a Espana. The German team did an excellent job, positing good times at both checks and crossing the line in 31.34 to post the best time.

 

Disaster for Lopez

As expected, Direct Energie were far off the pace and they lost more and more time at every time check. The French team stopped the clock in 32.32 to slot into second and so captains Romain Sicard and Farice Jeandesboz lost a lot of time.

 

Lotto Soudal were expected to post the best time but the Belgians had a disappointing ride to slot into second with 32.04. Things were much worse for the Astana team which got the race of to a disastrous start. Captain Miguel Angel Lopez dropped the chain after just one kilometre and the team had to wait around 30 seconds. That cost a top result as they reached the finish in second, 1 second behind Bora.

 

Solid ride by IAM

Lampre-Merida are here with no GC expectations and so there disastrous time of 32.45, 1.11 behind Bora-Argon 18, was not a major issue. Dimension Data did much better as Nathan Haas led the team across the line in 31.54 which was good enough for third.

 

Mathias Frank and his IAM teammates did their best it limit their losses and they did reasonably well as 31.50 saw them take third place, being the only team to arrive with 9 riders. Things were different for Caja Rural which had a very difficult start as their time of 32.13 was only good enough for sixth.

 

Etixx-QuickStep take the lead

FDJ started out fast as they were faster than Bora-Argon 18 at the first time check but in the end 31.42 was only good enough for third place. However, it was Etixx-QuickStep that everybody waited for as they had been clearly the best at both time checks and with a time of 30.59, they beat Bora by 35 seconds to position Yves Lampaert in the provisional lead.

 

Katusha are not known as specialists but they had a fine ride to slot into fifth with 31.54. Cofidis were expected to lose a lot of time and so it was no surprise that their time of 32.11 was only good enough for ninth out of 12 teams.

 

Best time for Orica-BikeExchange

A very motivated and strong Andrew Talansky got the race off to a good start as he led five of his teammates across the line in 31.29 to slot into second. As opposed to this, Pierre Latour and Jean-Christophe Peraud had a disastrous day with 32.25 which was only good enough for Ag2r.

 

Trek-Segafredo did surprisingly well to stop the clock in 31.27 which saw them slot into second place but it was Orica-BikeExchange that Etixx-QuickStep had their eyes on. The Australians had been faster at both time checks and with Damien Howson first across the line, they beat the Belgians by 16 seconds.

 

Movistar take the lead

Giant-Alpecin were not expected to feature near the top and their time of 32.27 was only good enough for 15th. Moments later, BMC sprinted to the line but their was no red jersey for Samuel Sanchez as he and his teammates missed out by less than a second.

 

LottoNL-Jumbo had been strong at both time checks but they lost some time in the finale and had to settle for fourth and so the attention soon tuned to Movistar. As usual, the Spaniards finished really well and despite being off the pace at both time checks, Valverde could lead his teammates across the line in 30.37 to beat Orica-BikeExchange by six seconds.

 

Sky win the stage

Sky were six seconds faster than Movistar at the final time check and so it was always going to be close. However, no one could have predicted the drama that saw Kennaugh lead Salvatore Puccio, Michal Kwiatkowski, Froome and Leopold König across the line in a time that was just 0.2 seconds faster than Movistar’s.

 

Tinkoff was the final team left on the course but it was evident that Contador was losing a lot of time. When Manuele Boaro led his teammates to the finish, the clock stopped in 31.29 for 8th place, meaning that Contador is already 52 seconds behind Froome and Quintana.

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