Team Sky kicked off its 2012 Vuelta with a disappointing performance in the team time trial in Benidorm, Spain. The team came into the event amongst the favourites to win the 13.5 kilometer course but a combination of bad luck and poor communication cost the team dearly. They limped home in 20th place. 42 seconds down winners, Leopard Trek.
Bradley Wiggins, the team’s hope for the GC, was at one point left with three teammates. It meant the team had to sit up and wait, because a team's time is measured on the fifth rider across the line.
The team’s bad luck began inside the opening kilometre when Kurt-Asle Arvensen crashed, impeding Xabier Zandio. The Spaniard, who will aim to help Wiggins in the mountains, was able to chase back on. Later in the course the team were put in even greater difficulty, dropping down to four riders. It was Zandio who managed to solo across and save Sky’s blushes. His ride allowed Sky to regroup in the run to the finish and cross the line with the minimum number of riders.
Sports Director Steven de Jongh said on the team’s website that the race had not gone to plan. “It was a really tough start,” he said.
“We lost Kurt after a kilometre. He came down and so did Zandio. Xabier had to chase down the group after that and then in the final we were down with four guys.
“A rider sat up and didn’t really understand what was going on. It was tough to hear on the radio with the public shouting so it was a difficult situation. So we are disappointed with the start but we have to look beyond that.”
Sky wasn’t the only team to suffer on what had looked like a technical but undemanding course along the seafront: Geox-TMC, Garmin-Cervelo, RadioShack and Rabobank all lost significant time to Leopard Trek.
Defending champion Vinenzo Nibali (Liquigas Cannondale) came out best of all the GC contenders. Although conceding five seconds to Leopard Trek, the Italian gained time on all his rivals.