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Jumbo-Visma began the campaign to deliver Primož Roglič to a fourth Vuelta a España title in a row on the front foot after dominating the opening time trial in Utrecht on Friday evening.
The Dutch squad swept through the 23.3km flat course on home ground to deliver Robert Gesink into the first red jersey of the race, setting the quickest time at the intermediate checkpoint by 14 seconds as the only squad to go under 12 minutes.
At the finish, 24:40 after they had set off, Jumbo-Visma crossed the line 13 seconds up on their closest rivals, an impressive margin with which to begin the race.
Ineos Grenadiers and Richard Carapaz were the next best squad at the finish, while QuickStep-AlphaVinyl and Remco Evenepoel were a further second back – the only two squads within 30 seconds of Jumbo-Visma.
Simon Yates’ BikeExchange-Jayco squad took fourth, the Briton starting the road stages at 31 seconds off the lead, while João Almeida’s UAE Team Emirates squad were a further two seconds back in fifth place.
Other notable names further away from the lead included Bora-Hansgrohe’s Jai Hindley, at 41 seconds down, Bahrain Victorious’ Mikel Landa at 42 seconds, Movistar’s Enric Mas at 43 seconds, and Astana Qazaqstan’s Miguel Ángel López at 46 seconds. Elsewhere, Hugh Carthy (EF Education-EasyPost), who finished at 1:19 down, endured a day to forget.
How it unfolded
The opening stage of the Vuelta a España would see the peloton take on a team time trial for the first time since the 2018 race in Torrevieja. But while that flat 13.4km course brought small gaps, with just 1:22 separating all 22 teams, the Utrecht TTT measured in at 23.3km and would provoke much larger time differences as a result, not to mention the conditions – wet after rainfall earlier on while the roads dried through the stage.
As the first team off, the COVID-19 hit seven men of Burgos-BH set the benchmark time with over the pan-flat course with 26:38. However, the purple-clad squad wouldn’t spend long in the hot seat as the next few teams to start – Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert, Israel-Premier Tech, Groupama-FDJ, and Arkéa-Samsic – all bested their time.
Groupama-FDJ were the quickest of that early quintet, their time of 25:18 putting 1:20 into Burgos-BH and 26 seconds plus over anyone else who had set out.
By the mid-point of the stage, the likes of EF Education-EasyPost, BikeExchange-Jayco, and Bahrain Victorious had all run their race. Only one of them, however, managed to overhaul Groupama-FDJ as Simon Yates’ squad enjoyed a good start to the race with a time of 25:11 as EF and Hugh Carthy set a time of 25:59.
Mikel Landa’s Bahrain Victorious came through soon after, shedding four seconds at the mid-stage checkpoint and a further three at the finish. BikeExchange-Jayco’s time held strong for some time after they had crossed the line, with Bora-Hansgrohe (Sergio Higuita, Jai Hindley, Wilco Kelderman) finishing 10 seconds down after going top at the split.
João Almeida’s UAE Team Emirates squad couldn’t beat them either, going two seconds down at the finish, while back on the course Ineos Grenadiers had put seven seconds into BikeExchange-Jayco at the checkpoint.
Miguel Angel López (Astana Qazaqstan) will have been happy to limit his losses to 15 seconds at the finish, though at that point all eyes were on Ineos as well as Remco Evenepoel’s QuickStep-AlphaVinyl, who were going quicker still, and Primož Roglič’s Jumbo-Visma squad, who started last.
As Ineos sped to the finish, putting BikeExchange-Jayco out of the hot seat after 40 minutes with an 18-second gap, Jumbo-Visma were busy blowing everybody else away at the checkpoint. The Dutch squad were the only team under 12 minutes at the checkpoint, putting 14 seconds into QuickStep-AlphaVinyl and three more into Ineos.
The Belgian squad slipped a little in the final part of the course to drop below Ineos, a second down at the line. A few minutes later, and almost an afterthought, Movistar started Alejandro Valverde’s final Vuelta 30 seconds down on Ineos having faded as the stage went on.
All that remained was for the hometown squad of Jumbo-Visma to come to the finish, with their eight men still all together as they headed for the final kilometres. The Dutch squad duly delivered on pre-race expectations to go quicker, though they did shed a solitary second in the latter half of the stage, finishing their effort 13 seconds clear of anyone else.
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