Stage 1 - August 30: Granada - Granada (TTT) , 7.7 km
Liquigas surprise over time trialling favourites
Filippo Pozzato in gold ahead of challenging stages
The Liquigas team scorched the 7.7km course
Photo ©: AFP
Team Liquigas posted an early time of 8'21" on the 7.7-kilometre team time trial parcours that marked the opening day of the 63rd Vuelta a España. The time stuck – and the team held off Euskaltel-Euskadi at eight seconds and Caisse d'Epargne at nine seconds to put the Italian team's ace, Italian Filippo Pozzato, in the leaders golden jersey.
Belgium's Quick Step finished in fourth at 10 seconds and favourite CSC-Saxo Bank, with Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, finished in fifth at 11 seconds.
Overall favourite Alberto Contador (Astana) wasn't too concerned with the 14 seconds he lost to Pozzato, as he was more concerned with the time lost to his strongest competitors, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Carlos Sastre (CSC). "This first stage has been a beautiful show and the team gave everything. I am happy to see that. Everything has gone well, because regarding to the other favourites, Sastre and Valverde, the differences are so small that we don't have to give them importance."
CSC's Carlos Sastre, the winner of the Tour de France, was unsure of his form coming into the Vuelta, but said that he felt the team time trial showed he was going well. "The truth is that already have been wanting to get into competition to know how I will feel. And although the team time trial was short, we have drawn conclusions that I am good. The team is highly motivated and eager, and except for two small mistakes that we made, we are satisfied with how we came out in the time trial."
Alejandro Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne director Eusebio Unzúe said that the team took care to not loose time to a crash. "We were quite careful during the time trial because, with the course, it was best not to take unnecessary risks," he said . "The general performance of the team was good, but the riders of Liquigas were definitely the best and we have to consider our third place a good result. Moreover we are happy to be ahead of the great favourites even if we know the seconds we won today will very soon have no importance at all."
Gerolsteiner's director agreed with the assessment of the course. "The roads were very slippery. And on the winding course we wanted to simply have no unnecessary risks."
The little Spanish Professional Continental team of Andalucía-Cajasur was the first to go, and ran into bad luck in its Vuelta debut, as two riders touched wheels and went down. As a result, their time was the slowest of the day.
Tinkoff and Milram put in some good times, and then Quick Step came in with a new best time, which it held for only a few minutes. Liquigas blasted its way through 10 seconds faster than the Belgians in a time which was to prove unbeatable.
Some of the teams expected to do well did not. Gerolsteiner finished a rather dismal tenth, and Astana only eighth. Thankfully for their GC contenders, the time losses in such a short stage were minimal. (SW)
Stage 2 - August 31: Granada - Jaén , 167 km
The first road stage and the first mountain is awaiting. But it is only in the form of the category three Las Encebras. Its early location – after only 45 kilometres in the 167-kilometre stage – will make it meaningless for the outcome of the stage. But it will determine the wearer of the mountains jersey, so expect riders like David De La Fuente ahead of the bunch early on.
Jaén is back as a stage town for the first time since 1991. The 116,000 citizens will be rewarded for their long wait with seeing the riders three times. A 26-kilometre loop has to be completed twice and the third time across the line will be for the stage victory. Stage Map
1 Liquigas 8.21 (55.33 km/h)
2 Euskaltel - Euskadi 0.08
3 Caisse d'Epargne 0.09
4 Quick Step 0.10
5 Team CSC - Saxo Bank 0.11
7 Tinkoff Credit Systems 0.12
8 Rabobank 0.13
9 Astana 0.14
10 Team Milram 0.15
11 Gerolsteiner 0.18
12 Cofidis, le credit par telephone 0.20
13 AG2R - La Mondiale
14 Silence - Lotto
15 Xacobeo - Galicia 0.21
16 Credit Agricole 0.23
17 Française Des Jeux 0.27
18 Bouygues Telecom 0.28
19 Andalucia - Cajasur 0.35