Events

Vuelta a España: Astana take opening team time trial to put López into leader’s jersey

Team Jumbo-Visma crash halfway through the technical town-center course on a wet patch, putting Primoz Roglic down 40 seconds before the action truly kicks off.

Team Astana got their Vuelta a España off to a strong start, putting their leaders Miguel Ángel López and Jakob Fuglsang on the front foot with a win in the race’s opening team time trial.

Astana set off halfway through the race, and survived a few ropey moments through the technical bends of the course through the center of coastal town Torrevieja, taking the hot seat with a time of 14:51.

Team Jumbo-Visma set off soon after Astana and were major contenders for the stage. However, they hit the deck in a mass crash halfway through the course, ending their chances of posting a competitive time. The Dutch team came in 40 seconds down on Astana – putting their leader and pre-race favorite Primoz Roglic at an immediate disadvantage in the race.

Deceunick-Quick-Step’s race was also affected by Jumbo-Visma’s crash, as they were forced off their line to dodge around the rival team’s car, which was on the course attending to their crashed riders. Deceuninck-Quick-Step finished just two seconds off the winning time, a deficit that could be attributed to their evasive maneuver.

The Spanish grand tour got started with a 13.4km TTT rip around Torrevieja, on Spain’s south-eastern coast. Teams rolled down the start ramp on the edge of a salt lagoon in the early Spanish evening before taking on a fast, twisting course through the town.

Team Dimension Data rolled out first on the day and set the time of 15:25, a 52kph average speed, though they were soon toppled by both EF Education First and CCC Team, with Americans Logan Owen, Tejay van Garderen and Lawson Craddock (all EF Education First) and grand tour rookie Will Barta (CCC) in their midst.

EF Education First roll around the salt lagoon that characterized the start of the course. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Team Sunweb set off soon after EF Education First and took the hot seat that EF Education First had just occupied, setting the provisional fastest time of 14:56.

Team Ineos, who took second place at the Tour de France TTT posted a time 26 seconds down on the final winning time, a result that will likely leave them disappointed. Mitchelton-Scott, typically a team time trial force, also came up below par, 18 seconds off the final winning pace.

After a nervous start and strong comeback, Astana set the time to beat mid-way through the stage. Lopez’s main pre-race rival Roglic and his Jumbo-Visma teammates set off soon after Astana finished, and lost American Sepp Kuss in the opening kilometers, putting them at an immediate disadvantage.

As the Dutch team hit halfway, several riders came down on a slick patch that had appeared on the course, bringing all their remaining riders to a halt as others picked themselves up. They crossed the line 40 seconds down on eventual winners Astana, visibly angered, with Roglic nursing grazing on his hip.

Things went from bad to worse for Jumbo-Visma, who lost Sepp Kuss early on before the remaining riders were brought down in a large pile-up. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) also crashed and looked to have picked up road rash, injuries that will set him back for the next 20 stages. Fernando Gaviria later revealed that they too were brought down by the water that caught out Jumbo-Visma, saying: “There was a big patch of water on one of the bends. We were going too fast to be able to react and we all ended up on the ground.”

Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde got off to a strong start, with Movistar placing 16 seconds down on Lopez and Astana, a time that was 24 seconds ahead of Roglic and Jumbo-Visma.

Stage 2, Sunday, is a tough hilly 200km stage to Calpe that will likely see a win from a sprint or breakaway.