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Tricky team time trial to open 2011 Vuelta a España Saturday

BENIDORM, Spain (VN) — The 22 starting teams will face a short, 13.5km, but challenging team time trial course to open the 66th Vuelta a España around this bustling beach resort along Spain’s Mediterranean Coast.

The route opens with a testing 3.5km climb right off the bat and later features some technical cornering midway through the course before a final, 5km straightaway to favor the specialists.

“This course is a bit surprising. After we rode it, we realized it has a bit of everything thrown at you,” Garmin-Cervélo sport director Bingen Fernández told VeloNews. “The climb is short but pretty steep. Then there are some very technical corners through the old part of town and then it’s flat along the beach, where it could be windy.”

Fernández said he doesn’t expect big time differences between the teams, which will roll out in four-minute intervals in Benidorm.

The route climbs into the hills just north of the beaches, where the route double backs and descends toward the old fishing village of Benidorm. Two tricky corners on cobblestoned streets could provoke some nerves among some of the less experienced riders.

The course kicks onto the flats for the final 5km, pushing east along the open seafront before doubling back to the finish line right in the heart of the tourist mecca of Benidorm.

“A team time trial is usually flat and favors the rolleurs, but this has a little bit of everything,” he continued. “The time differences shouldn’t be very big, because it’s quite a short distance. The differences will be taken in the first climb. And in the end, well, it will be the powerful riders who can carry home a team.”

Garmin-Cervélo will be among the favorites for victory, but it won’t have the same horse power it had when it won the Tour de France team time trial last month.

Others looking for strong rides will be HTC-Highroad, doubly motivated to defend its TTT victory from a year ago in what will be its final grand tour as a team.

Liquigas-Cannondale always puts down a good TTT while Team Sky, with pursuit Olympian Bradley Wiggins in the mix, will also be among the favorites.

Starting times for the team time trial:

17h02 : Skil-Shimano
17h06 : Team Garmin-Cervélo
17h10 : Quick-Step
17h14: Pro Team Astana
17h18: Cofidis
17h22: BMC
17h26: Leopard-Trek
17h30: Rabobank
17h34: Vacansoleil-DCM
17h38: RadioShack
17h42: Andalucia-Caja Granada
17h46: Omega Pharma-Lotto
17h50: Saxo Bank-Sungard
17h54: Ag2R-La Mondiale
17h58: Team Sky
18h02: Lampre-ISD
18h06: Movistar Team
18h10: Katusha
18h14: HTC-Highroad
18h18: Geox-TMC
18h22: Euskaltel-Euskadi
18h26: Liquigas-Cannondale

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