Jakob Fuglsang became the second Dane to lead the Vuelta a España following Leopard Trek’s victory in the opening team trial in Benidorm on Saturday, but he admitted that it was not planned that he would lead the squad over the line at the finish.
“I was at the front with about 200 metres left and I just went as fast as I could,” Fuglsang said according to feltet.dk. “I really thought someone would pass me but there wasn’t anybody.
“Our goal today was simply to do a good time trial. We knew if we did a good time trial we could win. This is a really special moment for the team - and for me, to pull on the leader’s jersey at the Grand Tour, that’s amazing.”
Fittingly, the first Dane to lead the Vuelta was in the team car behind Fuglsang and his teammates. Lars Michaelsen, now a sports director at Leopard Trek, won the opening stage of the Vuelta in Estoril, Portugal in 1997.
Michaelsen, who was riding for TVM, enjoyed two spells and four days in the then-yellow jersey of race leader during the opening week of the race, before losing it definitively to Laurent Jalabert on the road to Granada.
“Until today, I was the only Danish rider to have worn the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta,” Michaelsen said. “In 1997, I won the first stage and held on to the jersey for four days. It has been longer than I thought it would be that somebody would come and take the jersey. It’s a nice experience to be part of passing along the leader’s jersey to the second Danish rider to wear it.”
Although an early crash that saw Davide Viganò and Robert Wagner go down reduced Leopard Trek to seven riders for the bulk of the course, they succeeded in holding off Liquigas-Cannondale for the win.
“There was no harm done to them, but we were only seven from that point,” Michaelsen said. “We were without Viganò and Wagner on the part where they were to keep up the speed. Even without them, we managed. The guys just had to dig really deep.”
In that context, Leopard Trek’s win was something of a surprise, but its unexpected nature made the taste of victory all the sweeter for world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.
“I have had many time trial wins. This is the most amazing victory. It's also the most exciting and surprising. Accomplishing a win like this as a team is really something special,” Cancellara said.
Fuglsang goes into stage 2 with just four seconds in hand over fast man Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), but with Daniele Bennati on duty for Leopard Trek in the sprints, the Luxembourg squad has its own card to play in the hunt for bonus seconds.
“[Defending the red jersey] is a responsibility and an honour,” Michaelsen said. “We’ll go into the stage with a clear plan and see how things play out during the race.”