BURGOS, Spain (VN) — Simone Ponzi won the opening stage of the five-day Vuelta a Burgos across northern Spain, but all eyes were on another Astana rider.
Vincenzo Nibali, who has come under fire after a slow comeback from winning the Giro d’Italia, was on the attack in the intense closing 10 kilometers, which featured two climbs up a short, but steep finishing hill above historic Burgos.
Nibali pounced on the final climb in a surge that set his teammate up to take the win.
Ponzi countered off a move from Cannondale to pace his sprint perfectly, with Daniele Ratto (Cannondale) crossing the line disappointed in second. Sergei Chernetski (Katusha) crossed the line third.
“Without Vincenzo, I wouldn’t have won today, it’s that simple,” Ponzi said. “He did so much work in the final kilometers of the race to set a high pace and keep the speed up. When it was time for me to sprint, I had good legs and a lot of energy to pass the riders in front of me, and attack for the win.”
The punchy finale fractured the lead bunch, with Nibali crossing the line eight seconds adrift. Pre-race favorite Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crossed the line 12 seconds back while Ivan Basso (Cannondale), prepping for a run at the Vuelta a España, ceded 42 seconds.
Dombrowski, Boswell both crash out
Early in the explosive, 139km stage, a six-man group pulled clear, including Christian Meier, who just signed a two-year contract extension with Orica-GreenEdge, Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), back in action after his early exit from the Tour de France, and Astana veteran Paolo Tiralongo.
With a hilly profile and a punchy finale, the pack was not giving the breakaway too much rope. The six attackers never gained more than three minutes, and Meier was the last to get reeled in, with 11km to go.
A massive crash at about 65km saw several riders hit the deck, with race radio reporting that both Joe Dombrowski (Sky) and Ian Boswell (Sky) went down. Later, Dombrowski and Boswell abandoned due to the heavy fall.
Sky’s Christian Knees was also forced to abandon, posting on his Twitter account that he was taking a drink when he clipped wheels in the bunch, causing several others to crash as well.
Dombrowski wrote on Twitter that he had not suffered any fractures in the crash: “Thanks everyone. Yes I’m okay. No fractures. Looking forward to Colorado now!”
Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), who rode into the top 10 at the Tour de France, also was forced out.
The 35th Burgos tour continues Thursday with the 157km second stage in another roller across the plains of northern Spain, from Roa de Duero to Clunia. Crosswinds and narrow roads could cause echelons, with a bunch sprint likely in the cards.