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Five years on, Velits returns to Vuelta a España limelight with team success

Five years after he secured his greatest success to date, a podium finish in the 2010 Vuelta a España in Madrid, Peter Velits (BMC Racing Team) once again hit the limelight in the Spanish Grand Tour when he claimed the first leader's jersey of the race in Marbella.

The 7.4-kilometre stage from Puerto Banús was neutralised after concerns were raised about the safety of the course in the build-up to the race, but while a number of teams opted not to take any risks, it seemed that BMC, as befits their status as world team time trial champions, felt almost honour-bound to race as normal.

"We spoke about it on the bus and we decided to have a go and take our chance despite the risks. We're the world champions in the TTT and we wanted to show we can win on any parcours," Velits said afterwards.

The 30-year-old is certainly something of a specialist in the team time trial. Since the discipline was re-introduced to the World Championships for trade teams in 2012, Velits has been on the winning team on each occasion, winning gold with Omega Pharma-QuickStep in Valkenburg and Florence, and with BMC in Ponferrada last Autumn.

"We decided to go out hard and we were ready to use up guys early on and we were still able to finish strongly with the bare five riders and I think that was the right tactic," Velits said of BMC's winning ride on Saturday evening.

It was Velits' second time tasting victory as part of a collective effort on the opening day of the Vuelta, as he and current BMC teammate Tejay van Garderen were members of the HTC-Highroad squad that claimed the win in Seville in 2010.

On that occasion, Mark Cavendish led the team across the line to take the first red jersey of the Vuelta. This time out, the honour fell to Velits, though he explained that BMC's order across the finish line had not been predetermined. Not surprisingly for a man with such experience in the discipline, he was eager to stress that it had been a collective triumph.

"We didn't decide before the start who would lead over the finish line and we didn't have time to decide in final kilometres either because it was so fast, but I ended up in front," Velits said. "Tomorrow I'll wear the red jersey but it belongs to the team. It's just a pity the whole team can't wear red jerseys tomorrow."

Though Velits sets off on stage 2 with the red jersey on his back, he carries no time advantage with him on the road to Caminito del Rey, and thus can only retain the overall lead by winning on the Vuelta's first summit finish.

Victory at the 2012 Tour of Oman notwithstanding, Velits has never scaled similar stage racing heights to his remarkable 2010 Vuelta, and he has no illusions about his place in BMC's pecking order at this race, where van Garderen and Samuel Sanchez will head up the team's general classification aspirations.

"We'll see what happens in the coming days," he said. "The important thing is that we have the red jersey now and we have shown that we have strong riders, with two men for the GC. We're going to fight on all the stages."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.