Alberto Contador has made a habit of doing things the hard way over the years, and the Spaniard will carry an early deficit on his main rivals at the Vuelta a España after his Tinkoff squad conceded 52 seconds in the opening team time trial in Galicia on Saturday evening.
The 27.8-kilometre stage was won by Team Sky, who beat Movistar by four hundredths of a second to put Pete Kennaugh in the first red jersey of the race. The result means that Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde all gained 52 seconds on Contador on the opening night.
“Obviously we didn’t expect such a large difference. Being a minute down on the favourites is complicated, but we will try to give the best we have,” Contador said, according to AS. “There are still 20 stages to go, so we just have to go day by day, stage by stage and see what we can do.”
Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange) and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) each gained close to 50 seconds on Contador, while Astana were just 8 seconds slower than Tinkoff despite Miguel Angel Lopez unshipping his chain in the early part of the course. Contador, however, did not feel that his Tinkoff squad had made any particular technical errors.
"It is always hard to start with a team time trial after a week of slow training but I feel very well. The team gave its best today. We all raced at 100% of our potential and I don't think we could have done something differently.”
Contador was forced out of the Tour de France after a week of racing by two crashes and a bout of illness, but he recovered to win the Vuelta a Burgos in the build-up to this race. The Spaniard, who is expected to join Trek-Segafredo next season, has won the Vuelta in each of his three participations to date, in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
“In a team time trial it is difficult to say, but my feelings were very good," Contador said, when asked if he had recovered from his travails at the Tour.
“It was a difficult one, but there were no surprises from the course,” Tinkoff directeur sportif Steven de Jongh said. “The start was good, but after 10km some riders weren't going to well so they had to sit on. Michael Gogl, Manuele Boaro, Daniele Bennati and Alberto had to do more and I think we lost some time there, but the race is long still and we can look ahead now.“