Primoz Roglic took the opening stage of the 2021 La Vuelta a Espana as he bids to win his third title in as many years at the Spanish Grand Tour.
Roglic, who won Olympic gold just a few weeks ago, was one of the main favourites for the individual time trial, but some peculiar timings in the second half of the race did – for a moment – introduce a sliver of doubt about the result.
His main rival for the win was something of a surprise package, the 25-year-old Alex Aranburu (Astana PremierTech). The sprinter-puncheur was an early occupant of the hotseat, and watched around 100 riders finish without bettering his mark. Ultimately, the gap between the two was just six seconds.
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The one doubt over whether Roglic would do as everyone expected came from a trend of riders recording very fast times on the opening section of the course, before tailing off dramatically in the back-end of the day's seven-kilometre parcours. Sepp Kuss (Jumbo Visma) was one such rider, while Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) also failed to replicate across the whole course their fantastic times at the intermediate timing point. This 'slowing down' in the second part of the course raised questions about weather conditions changing as the evening wore on in Burgos, but ultimately it was an assured, perfectly-judged performance from the Slovenian to take the win.
There was only one serious GC contender in the top ten on today's stage, other than the man in red himself. Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana PremierTech) was tenth on the day, 14 seconds down on Roglic's eventual winning mark.
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Roglic's teammate Kuss is 12th (+15"), with Bardet in 14th and Enric Mas (Movistar) in 15th at 17 and 18 seconds down, respectively. Adam Yates is 20 seconds down in 16th place. It's still tightly clustered. Hugh Carthy is maybe the biggest loser in terms of the general classification, down in 62nd place with a deficit to Roglic of 33 seconds.
Encouragingly for the spectacle of the race, none of these gaps are insurmountable and could easily be won back with a daring late attack in the mountains, or a crazy day of echelons on the Spanish plains. That hasn't stopped some from joking that – with overall favourite Roglic in the maillot rojo – the race is already effectively over.
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