You’ll always hear that the first stages of a Grand Tour are ones in which “the race cannot be won” followed by a uncommitted “but it could be lost” reserved for such instances as a crash or mechanical disaster such is cycling. However, the time gaps produced by Astana in the first stage of the Vuelta a España are nothing to overlook. Let’s consider that 30 second time gaps separating legit GC competitors on mountaintop finishing stages is a significant statement. So what then is 1 minute worth of gaps in a TTT? It may take two mountain stages to recoup those losses, assuming that is your area of strength and advantage over your competitor.
Astana, with a very strong team lead by Vincenzo Nibali, really put the hammer down and the boys in baby blue made some gaps the rest of the GC guys shouldn’t shrug off as Nibali is no slouch climber. With their top time of 29’59” they put Janez Brajkovic in the first red leader’s jersey of the race and they produced some sizable margins while doing so. Teams like Garmin-Sharp who reportedly had a crash saw the hopes of Daniel Martin suffer. Martin is already faced with making up 1’41” as is Carlos Betancur (ALM) who showed himself to have quite a pedigree in the 2013 Giro. And two minute gaps are already ones which may need a change in strategy later in the race, or possibly worse, put the idea in ones head that will be the case if aggressive racing doesn’t happen sooner.
The bulk of the competition finished the technical time trial along the Galician coast about 50 seconds in arrears and are facing a tough challenge to close some of that gap before Nibali and his team are able to take control in the mountains. If you’ve come away from this TTT more than 40 seconds behind, the verbal assessment at the dinner table likely won’t be too kind. Tomorrow has some elevation and may provide the first opportunity to take some time back if someone has the legs and the cojones to give it a go.
2013 Vuelta Stage 1 TTT
1. Astana Pro Team_________29’59”
2. Radioshack Leopard______+10″
3. Omega Pharma Quickstep__+16″
4. Sky Procycling__________+22″
5. Movistar Team___________+29″
6. Team Saxo-Tinkoff_______+32″
7. Team Netapp-Endura______+35″
8. BMC Racing Team_________+36″
9. Orica GreenEdge_________+45″
10. Belkin Pro Cycling_____+49″
11. Lampre Merida__________+56″
12. Katusha Team___________+59″
13. Lotto Belisol__________+1’14”
14. Euskaltel Euskadi______+1’14”
17. Cannondale Pro Team____+1’26”
18. Caja Rural_____________+1’38”
19. Garmin Sharp___________+1’41”
20. AG2R La Mondiale_______+1’41”
21. Argos Shimano__________+1’53”