La Vuelta | Stage 1
Bad beat for Aranburu
He can't have had much pressure on his shoulders going into today's stage, but nevertheless it's a bitter pill to swallow when you get knocked off the top spot by the very last rider to come home.
Trailblazer Girmay makes history with Stage 10 victory
Roglic leads GC by 14 seconds
There's only one real GC rider in the top ten on today's stage, other than the man in red. Aleksandr Vlasov was tenth on the day, 14 seconds down on Roglic's eventual winning mark.
Roglic's teammate Sepp Kuss is 12th, with Romain Bardet in 14th and Enric Mas in 15th. 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, none of these gaps are insurmountable and could easily be won with a daring late attack in the mountains, or lost in a crazy day of echelons on the Spanish plains.
Roglic wins the stage!
Well, we said this was possible! He has beaten Aranburu's time by six seconds and takes the first red jersey of the race.
This is beyond a trend now
Amazing times on the way 'out' are giving way to middling times on the way back. Bardet's early promise did not materialise into a time to beat Aranburu's, and nor did Aleksandr Vlasov's. It has become the new normal.
If anyone can buck that, however, it's Primoz Roglic, who is off the ramp, last man, and looking to put down a big marker ahead of an almost-month of racing. Egan Bernal went off about two minutes ago.
Is it a Romain Bardet-day?
He, like Carapaz and many before him, has just set the new best intermediate time. What does that mean? Possibly nothing at all. Possibly, it means today is the day he wins a stage of a Grand Tour for the first time since 2017.
The Carapaz fire has been extinguished
He crosses the line significantly down on the best time of Aranburu. There's a growing suspicion here that the intermediate times are perhaps not as reliable as they should be. It's like every rider now is setting fast split times and then slowing considerably in the latter part of their effort. It's almost too uniform now to be put down to the wind or fading energy reserves.
New best intermediate for Carapaz!
Gosh these Ineos fellas have a few good riders, don't they? We haven't even mentioned their Ecuadorean Olympic champ, yet, today. He's on fire!
Pidcock: "I couldn't push or go deep"
The young Brit explained to Eurosport after his effort that today just wasn't for him, especially after a three week holiday post-Olympics. He also suggested he might've done better after a few long flat road stages to warm his legs back up. Pidcock's time was 9'08".
Slowing in the second half
We've seen a lot of the riders who finished in the last half hour or so who've gone very well indeed on the first half of the course, but then shed a lot of time. Michael Matthews is just about to finish, but he's gone from a very sharp time at the top of the climb, to a bit of a deficit to Aranburu by the time he crossed the line. The same (or similar) has happened for Pidcock, Kuss, Vanmarcke and Rui Oliveira. There's some suggestion Oliveira might've crashed.
It'll be interesting to see if the same phenomenon afflicts Roglic and the other 'specialists' yet to come
From Craddock to Pidcock
And the Olympic mountain bike champion is really tearing into the opening metres of this course. He seemed more like he was sprinting than riding a TT, with an out-of-the-saddle style right off the ramp.
Several pundits and other riders have tipped Pidcock as a rider who might not just do well, but win this stage. As a rider whose got a strong background in the punchy discipline of cyclocross, it is really a great course for him.
Craddock going for it!
The newly-minted USA national time trial champion is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his teammate Tom Scully and put in a fantastic time here. Craddock is a very powerful rider and is more than capable of a result on this puncheur's prologue.
Tom Scully with a surprise second!
The journeyman EF Education First Nippo rider is not a name that was on anybody's lips at the start of this stage (except perhaps maybe his), but he has just battered the course around Burgos and registers the second-best time of the day.
Some interesting results being thrown out here.
Halfway there, and a new leader
We've had just about half of the riders start the race now and it had settled down a bit until Alex Aranburu hit the course. That time from van Baarle was looking pretty solid, but then the Astana man let rip and bettered the Dutchman's mark by a further five seconds with 8'38".
Still plenty of firepower to come, of course. Primoz Roglic will obviously have a good go at winning the stage, while his compatriot Jan Tratnik is another top TT engine. The brothers Izagirre are both yet to start, with Ion usually the better of the two against the clock. They're teammates of Aranburu's. Egan Bernal is the penultimate rider off the ramp and he too is capable of great things on a TT bike.
Oh, and there's this Pidcock kid you may have heard of...
Yates recounts his effort
He's looking in great nick, is Adam. I am beginning to believe...
Dylan van BOOM!
Massive time from van Baarle there. He's eclipsed Adam Yates' time and pushed his teammate out of the lead of the stage. Yates can now get out of the hoteset and go begin his recovery ahead of stage 2, so it's not wholly a negative – and of course, Ineos get to keep their hopes of winning the stage alive now through van Baarle.
New leading time is 8'44".
The Bahrain Victorious leader has just had to avoid a stray pooch who infiltrated the race route as he began his TT effort. It shouldn't slow Landa down too badly, having come right at the start of the course, but it's hardly the ideal way to begin a Grand Tour!
A strong Mikel Landa could transform this race into something truly special, and we saw some intriguing glimpses of what he might be able to do earlier in the season at the Giro. He was in great form then, but unfortunately crashed out of contention in the first week.
Yates is the new leader!
That's a storming ride from the man from Bury. Chapeau, Adam. He stops the clock in 8'52", three seconds faster than Fraile.
Here's another Lancastrian with designs on the overall victory talking about this intriguing opening week of La Vuelta.
'The first few stages will be nervous' - Hugh Carthy speaks ahead of Vuelta a España
Adam Yates charging through the course
The Brit – who may or may not emerge as the outright leader of Ineos by the end of this three-week race – is certainly having a belting start to its first day. He's set the fastest time so far at the single intermediate timing point on the course, going faster than Omar Fraile by a full five seconds – who actually knocked Martin off the top spot a few minutes ago. Fraile's time was 8'55".
Sergio Roman Martin takes the lead
Another young Spanish rider – this time of Caja Rural, one of the invitee teams at this year's Vuelta – has bested the time set by Pelayo Sanchez. His marker is 9'18". It seems likely to me that the winner of today's stage will go closer to eight minutes than nine. Sergio Roman Martin was born in Galapagar, near to Madrid, making him something of a rarity – most of the country's best riders emerge in the regions to the north and south (Valencia, Catalunya, the Basque Country, Asturias and Andalusia), successful racers from the central plains are less common.
The Basque rider won the Spanish National Championships road race earlier this year, so will wear that immediately recognisable white jersey with the red and yellow stripes across the chest for most of the race. Today, however, he wears the regular blue skinsuit of his team Astana PremierTech.
Fraile's teammate and fellow Basque, Ion Izagirre, is the national TT champ and he'll be the one showing off a special skinsuit later.
Pelayo Sanchez is (kinda) leading La Vuelta
The young Spaniard finishes with a time of 9'30" and as the only rider to have finished so far, he is the virtual maillot rojo! The question now is whether the 21-year-old will make it to the hot seat before somebody turfs him out. As a Burgos BH rider, today's stage in the team's home town holds significant weight – and even if they don't ultimately win the stage, the chance to have their rider tackle the course first is a nod to that significance. Cycling is cool like that.
Tooot Tooot! The La Vuelta express has left the station
We're in the city of Burgos today to kick off the third and final (and also best) Grand Tour of the year, with a rapid-fire loop of the city completed as a race against the clock. Primoz Roglic comes into this year's Vuelta as two-time champion, looking to make it three wins on the bounce. His attempt to do retain the title for a third year begins today, on a course that favours his formidable talents in the race of truth.
Roglic will go off the ramp last, around about 8pm local time or 7pm here in the UK. First down the ramp is Pelayo Sanchez of home team Burgos BH, followed closely by Jay Vine of Alpecin Fenix.
Is La Vuelta 2021 more than Roglic vs Bernal vs Landa?
Fresh from winning the Olympic time trial gold medal, Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic will look to draw a line under his Tour de France heartbreak with victory in the third and final Grand Tour of the season. Just as he did in 2019 and 2020 – bouncing back from respective disappointments in the Giro and Tour – the 31-year-old will be drinking at the last chance saloon that is the Vuelta in a bid to end his season on a high.
Roglic entered the Tour with the aim of pushing compatriot Tadej Pogacar all the way following his penultimate day implosion in 2019 – only for a crash in the opening week to end his chances of yellow jersey glory. After withdrawing on the first weekend in the Alps, Roglic regrouped at the Tokyo Olympics and will take to the start of the Vuelta in Burgos with a gold medal in his trophy cabinet and the prospect of becoming only the third rider in history to win three Vuelta’s back-to-back-to-back very much in the offing.
In his bid to follow in the tyre tracks of Switzerland’s Tony Rominger (1992-94) and Spain’s Roberto Heras (2003-05), Roglic will be backed up by a strong Jumbo-Visma team which blends experience, youth, and uphill firepower. At the one end of the age spectrum, dependable Dutch duo Robert Gesink and Steven Kruijswijk will dovetail with the youthful climbing duo of Koen Bouwman and Sam Oomen; the American Sepp Kuss adds a little pizzazz (not to mention a viable Plan B) while powerhouse pair Nathan Van Hooydonck and Lennard Hofstede offer protection for the flat stages.
It’s a team that should inspire Roglic with confidence – and provided he had the legs, he will be favourite to retain his title on a route bookended by time trials and featuring no fewer than 10 uphill finishes.
Ineos and Bahrain to push Jumbo-Visma all the way
But what of his opponents? Ineos Grenadiers boast not one, but two Olympic gold medallists in Tokyo road race victor Richard Carapaz and Grand Tour debutant Tom Pidcock, who showed his versatility by winning the mountain bike race event in Japan. Neither, at least on paper, are the main focal point of an Ineos team that features the reigning Giro champion Egan Bernal and Britain’s Adam Yates.
Colombia’s Bernal showed that he was back to his best after a year struggling with back issues following his Tour de France win in 2019 – and victory this September would see the 24-year-old become the youngest ever winner of all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
Movistar are continually given grief for fielding a leading triumvirate to major races – and usually this grief is wholly warranted once relations and tactics descend into total bedlam on the road. But Ineos Grenadiers have a potential quadrant once you throw into the equation Russia’s Pavel Sivakov, who came ninth in his debut Giro two years ago.
Through a combination of bad luck and unfortunate crashes, Sivakov has struggled to replicate that form since, and the 24-year-old will surely be in domestique mode on Spain. Quite who he will be supporting, however, remains a mystery and could well be decided on the road. Carapaz finished runner-up in last year’s Vuelta and came third in the Tour – although he could be tired after his Olympic exertions – while Yates did win the Volta a Catalunya earlier this spring, but has yet to tide a three-week race for Ineos. It’s no guarantee that Bernal will be top dog – especially if his back problems return – but if he does, the Colombian should be Roglic's principal adversary.
A strong support crew is completed by Ecuador’s Jhonatan Narvaez, Italy’s Salvatore Puccio and Dutchman Dylan van Baarle – but all eyes will be on 22-year-old Pidcock who has all the attributes in his locker to perhaps one day win a race like this. Like Remco Evenepoel, though, his debut Grand Tour may above all prove to be a learning curve: the Belgian tyro performed excellently for the first 10 days in the Giro for Deceuninck-QuickStep before tailing off after the first rest day and eventually abandoning following a crash.
Another rider who left the Giro following a high-speed spill was the Basque climber Mikel Landa, who looked to be in fine form before his race came to a sudden end in the frantic finale to Stage 5. Never before had the 31-year-old had such a chance to break his Grand Tour duck – and his good legs were there for everyone to see at the recent Vuelta a Burgos, which he won ahead of Fabio Aru.
Supporting Landa on a formidable Bahrain Victorious team will be this year’s Giro runner-up, Damiano Caruso, the Australian climber Jack Haig and the former Team Sky stalwart Wout Poels of the Netherlands. Haig saw his own Tour de France hopes dashed after breaking his collarbone in one of the crashes which peppered Stage 3, and the 27-year-old makes his return to action this Saturday.
Switzerland’s Gino Mader, who plucked a maiden Grand Tour stage win the day after Landa’s withdrawal from the Giro, is part of a support crew that also includes the experienced Japanese domestique Yukiya Arashiro, the Slovenian engine Jan Tratnik, and Ukraine’s Mark Padun, who made ripples by winning back-to-back mountain stages in the Dauphiné off the back of some serious weight-shedding on a high-altitude training camp this spring.
It’s hard seeing beyond Roglic, Bernal and Landa when it comes to conjuring up a predicted podium – but we all know how fast things can change during a Grand Tour.
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