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Stage 1 of the 2013 Vuelta a España, a 27.4km team time trial from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo.
Team NetApp-Endura will kick off proceedings in a little over twenty minutes, with the 22 teams setting off on the 27.4 kilometre course at four-minute intervals. The three principal favourites and their teams – Joaquim Rodriguez’s Katusha, Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar and Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana – are the final three starters this evening. Nibali and company roll down the start ramp on the batea in the harbour at Vilanova de Arousa at 8.12pm local time.
1 Team Netapp - Endura 18:48:00
2 Orica Greenedge 18:52:00
3 Argos-Shimano Team 18:56:00
4 BMC Racing Team 19:00:00
5 Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 19:04:00
6 Cofidis, Solutions Credits 19:08:00
7 Vacansoleil - DCM Pro Cycling Team 19:12:00
8 Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 19:16:00
9 Lampre-Merida 19:20:00
10 AG2R La Mondiale 19:24:00
11 Team Saxo-Tinkoff 19:28:00
12 Lotto Belisol 19:32:00
13 FDJ.fr 19:36:00
14 Sky Procycling 19:40:00
15 Cannondale Pro Cycling 19:44:00
16 Sharp Garmin 19:48:00
17 Euskaltel Euskadi 19:52:00
18 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 19:56:00
19 Leopard Radioshack 20:00:00
20 Katusha 20:04:00
21 Movistar Team 20:08:00
22 Astana Pro Team 20:12:00
What is a batea, you might well ask. There is nobody better placed to explain than Cyclingnews' man in Spain Alasdair Fotheringham, who tells us that a batea is "a giant raft with underwater cages used for growing seafood, particularly mussels." Thus, the 2013 Vuelta a España begins on water, although the riders will cross to terra ferma almost immediately.
This evening's team time trial is the proverbial race of two halves. The opening ten kilometres as far as Cambados are undulating and technical, making it difficult for teams to settle into a rhythm, although the roads become straighter and flatter over the back end of the course.
The word reaching us from Galicia is that while the skies are sunny and clear, the riders will have to tackle some typically blustery and windy conditions this evening, making those sinuous opening ten kilometres all the more daunting.
The major talking point in Galicia this evening, of course, is the absence of Theo Bos. The Belkin sprinter returned low levels of cortisol in pre-race tests and while that does not prevent him from racing under UCI rules, Belkin are members of the MPCC - the Movement for Credible Cycling - and as per the group's regulations, they took the decision not to start Bos. Belkin said that they made the call "because of low cortisol levels that appeared in a regular pre-race UCI test, which is an indication of sub-optimal health conditions.”
The MPCC's stance on cortisol was born of the desire to place restrictions on the use of cortisone in the peloton. In particular, the movement looks to prevent riders from racing while using therapeutic use exemptions.
NetApp-Endura have set off and rolled across the impressive transparent ramp and onto the mainland to begin their Vuelta. Orica-GreenEdge are now waiting for their start.
Orica-GreenEdge won the team time trial at the Tour de France, but Simon Gerrans admitted that they will be hard-pressed to repeat that feat here. “Anything is possible but we don’t have as many team pursuit world or Olympic champions as in the Tour, or maybe yes, but from the junior category,” Gerrans said. “It’ll be difficult to win today. The course is different than at the Tour but it’s not a massive disadvantage for us.”
Argos-Shimano are the third team to start. Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb racked up Vuelta stage wins over the past two years but neither man is on the start line here. It will be fascinating, however, to see how French talent Warren Barguil gets on in his grand tour debut.
Baden Cooke has been dropped by his Orica-GreenEdge teammates in the opening kilometres of the time trial. There are a lot of curves in this first segment of the course, and there is precious little respite for a rider who loses contact on one of these corners.
Orica-GreenEdge reach the first time check after 9.2km in 10:59, two seconds quicker than NetApp-Endura. Caja Rural have just begun their time trial, while BMC - complete with Philippe Gilbert and Marco Pinotti - set off four minutes before them.
While Cofidis ready themselves on the start line, Omega Pharma-QuickStep's nine riders have heeded the boatman's call and are making their way across the harbour to the start aboard a small passenger boat.
BMC have gone through the 9.2km point with the new quickest time, albeit just a fraction of a second quicker than Orica-GreenEdge.
Powered by Tony Martin and his 58-tooth chainring, world team time trial champions Omega Pharma-QuickStep set off as favourites for stage honours this evening. The squad also includes the in-form Zdenek Stybar, fresh from overall victory at the Eneco Tour.
Orica-GreenEdge have struggled to maintain their tempo over the second 10km of the course, and they reach the 20km point 7 seconds down on NetApp-Endura.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep settle smoothly into their rhythm, with Tony Martin kicking off proceedings with a long turn on the front.
NetApp-Endura have hit the finish line in a time of 30:34. The wind is at the teams' backs for the majority of the parcours and the winning average speed will be a quick one this evening in spite of the early technical sections.
Orica-GreenEdge come home 10 seconds down on NetApp-Endura. Meanwhile, BMC are down to six riders as they approach the 20km mark.
Incidentally, BMC reached that 20km check point two seconds down on NetApp-Endura. Lampre-Merida and Ag2r have also begun their time trials, while the Saxo-Tinkoff team of Rafal Majka, Nicolas Roche and Roman Kreuziger waits on the start line.
As expected, Omega Pharma-QuickStep have powered through the first time check with the quickest time. Tony Martin et al reached the 9.2km point in a time of 10:45, 14 seconds quicker than BMC.
Marco Pinotti leads BMC across the finish line with the day's second best time, just one second down on NetApp-Endura. Meanwhile, Cofidis are at sixes and sevens. Or more accurately, they are down to five riders with almost five miles still to race.
Tony Martin's power is such that he is opening gaps in the Omega Pharma-QuickStep pace-line and the German has been forced to check his pace accordingly.
Serge Pauwels has been dropped by Omega Pharma-QuickStep and they're down to six riders as they approach the second intermediate check.
FDJ are the 13th team to set off, and their line-up features Thibaut Pinot, who comes to the Vuelta eager to put a disappointing Tour de France behind him.
Omega Pharma-QuickStep zoom through the second time check 8 seconds up on NetApp, but they are down to just the bare five riders for the final part of the course.
Sky roll out to start their Vuelta. Sergio Henao is ostensibly the team leader but the QuickStep-bound Rigoberto Uran is not ruling himself wholly out of the equation.
It's been a low-key start from Saxo-Tinkoff, who hit the first time check already 18 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Tony Martin leads Omega Pharma-QuickStep across the finish line with the new quickest time, some 19 seconds quicker than previous leaders NetApp-Endura.
Dan Martin and his Garmin-Sharp teammates set off. There are just six more teams to come after them, with Astana the last squad off at 8:12pm local time.
Sky come through the first time check (9.2km) some 20 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
The Ag2r-La Mondiale squad of Carlos Betancur zips through the finish area 1:25down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep, but we can expect to see the pugnacious Colombian try and get back on the front foot as early as tomorrow afternoon's summit finish at Alto Do Monte Da Groba.
Meanwhile, Saxo-Tinkoff managed to pace themselves well over the second half of the course and they hit the finish with the second best time, 20 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep. They were 18 seconds behind after 9.2km, but Bjarne Riis' men dosed their effort well.
That said, Saxo-Tinkoff had closed the gap to 9 seconds with 7 kilometres to go, but the monstruous efforts of Tony Martin in the finale helped QuickStep to pad out their advantage again in the closing kilometres.
In spite of losing Xabier Zandio and Edvald Boasson Hagen, Sky look to have paced themselves well. 20 seconds back after 9.2km, the men in black are just 5 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep at the second time check after 20km.
The Katusha team of Joaquim Rodriguez is out on the course and only Movistar and Astana remain to start.
Ivan Basso and Cannondale are not having the best of evenings in Galicia. The men in lime green are already 39 seconds down at the 20km mark.
Movistar roll off the batea and hurtle into the first technical section of the team time trial course. Omega Pharma-QuickStep's 30:15 remains the time to beat, although Sky were pressing close at the second time check.
Sky more or less broke even with Omega Pharma-QuickStep and cross the the finish line six seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep with the second best time so far.
Astana have a very strong line-up at the Vuelta, and Vincenzo Nibali can rely on the support of Janez Brajkovic, Jakob Fuglsang, Tanel Kangert, Paolo Tiralongo and Maxim Iglinskiy over the next three weeks. The Kazakh outfit quickly settles into its formation here.
Fabian Cancellara has been the driving force behind RadioShack-Leopard's effort so far, but they reach the 9.2km mark already 14 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Basso leads Cannondale over the finish line, 1:10 down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep. He'll have to wait and see how that time stacks up against those of Astana, Katusha and Movistar, but it's certainly a low-key start for the Italian, who has been talking up his chances of a podium finish.
Joaquim Rodriguez and his Katusha team hit the 9.2km mark 21 seconds behind, and he will be hoping that they have paced themselves along the lines of the Sky model here.
Movistar have zipped through that same time check just ten seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep, and Alejandro Valverde will be sensing a chance to gain some early ground on his rivals here.
Katusha are only halfway through the time trial and already down to just five riders. As is his wont in team time trials, Rodriguez is spending most of his the evening on the back of the Katusha pace line.
Garmin-Sharp cross the finish line with the 13th best time to date, some 1:25 down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Fabian Cancellara is beginning to pull out the stops for RadioShack-Leopard, and they hit the 20km point just two seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep. Can the Swiss rider and his teammates out-strip Martin over the final 7 kilometres?
Samuel Sanchez, Igor Anton and Euskaltel-Euskadi won't be too displeased with their showing, as they have managed to limit their losses to 58 seconds at the finish.
Matt Busche has been dangling off the back of the RadioShack line for much of the last ten kilometres and it looks as though he is definitively losing contact on the run-in to the line.
Katusha's quintet are battling to steady the ship, but they hit the 20km mark some 25 seconds down on Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Bauke Mollema leads Belkin across the finish line with the 7th best time to date, 33 seconds behind Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
Fabian Cancellara has given a masterclass in pace-making this evening. He has led RadioShack-Leopard across the finish line with the quickest time to date. Their time of 30:09 (average speed 54.5kph) is six seconds quicker than Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
As Cancellara and co. settle in the hot seat, however, they will have learned that Astana have shot through the second time check with the quickest time to date, 8 seconds up on everyone else.
Meanwhile, a ragged Katusha has crossed the finish line some 49 seconds down on RadioShack-Leopard. They were down to just five riders for the second half of the course, and while Joaquim Rodriguez put a few solid turns on the front in the finale, they had to slow and wait for Dani Moreno in the final kilometre.
Only Movistar and Astana are left to finish, and it appears that only Astana can deny Fabian Cancellara the first red jersey of the Vuelta. Movistar were 17 seconds down on Astana with 7 kilometres to go.
Movistar are down to the bare five riders in the final kilometre and they are finding their progress on the narrow road impeded by three dropped Katusha riders.
Movistar cross the line in 4th place, 19 seconds down on RadioShack. They probably coughed up a few extra seconds in that brief traffic jam underneath the red kite.
Astana still have seven riders as they enter the closing kilometres and their paceline is still fluid. An anxious Fabian Cancellara leans over his bike by the finish area, as he waits for Astana to finish.
Astana are into the final kilometre and it looks set to be a tight finish between the Kazakh outfit and RadioShack-Leopard.
Janez Brajkovic leads Astana over the finish line with the quickest time, 10 seconds up on RadioShack-Leopard. The Slovenian will wear the first red jersey of the 2013 Vuelta.
1 Astana 0:29:59
2 RadioShack-Leopard 0:30:09
3 Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:30:15
4 Sky Procycling 0:30:21
5 Movistar Team 0:30:28
6 Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:30:31
7 NetApp-Endura 0:30:34
8 BMC Racing Team 0:30:35
9 Orica-GreenEdge 0:30:44
10 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:30:48
Vincenzo Nibali looked very comfortable in crossing the finish line in second place and the Sicilian can be satisfied with an evening that has seen him gain some early ground on his prinicipal overall rivals.
Nibali has picked up 22 seconds on Uran and Henao (Sky), 29 seconds on Valverde (Movistar), 49 seconds on Mollema (Belkin), 58 seconds on Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and1:26 on Ivan Basso (Cannondale) in just over 27 kilometres of racing.
Team time trial result:
1 Astana 0:29:59
2 RadioShack-Leopard 0:00:10
3 Omega Pharma-Quick-Step Cycling Team 0:00:16
4 Sky Procycling 0:00:22
5 Movistar Team 0:00:29
6 Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:32
7 NetApp-Endura 0:00:35
8 BMC Racing Team 0:00:36
9 Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:45
10 Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:00:46
11 Lampre-Merida 0:00:56
12 Katusha 0:00:59
13 Lotto Belisol 0:01:14
14 Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:00
15 Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team 0:01:18
16 FDJ 0:01:25
17 Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:01:26
18 Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:01:38
19 Garmin-Sharp 0:01:41
20 Ag2R La Mondiale 0:00
21 Team Argos-Shimano 0:01:53
22 Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:55
“It was a great time trial,” Nibali gasped on crossing the line. “The team was fantastic. My condition is very good but the Vuelta is very hard and long, and has some very important stages. We’ll have to see day by day.”
1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana 29:59:00
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
5 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana
6 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Leopard 00:00:10
8 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard
9 Markel Irizar (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard
Thanks for joining us for this evening’s live coverage from the Vuelta a España. A full report, results and pictures will follow shortly on Cyclingnews, and we’ll also have live coverage from the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado. We’ll be back with more live Vuelta coverage tomorrow afternoon, as the peloton tackles stage two, from Pontevedra to the first summit finish atop the Alto Do Monte Da Groba.