Vuelta a España’s joint technical director Fernando Escartín has said that despite all the concerns and controversy surrounding the opening stage’s team time trial course, the Vuelta’s first day of racing finally took place without any serious incidents or crashes to report.
The 7.4 kilometre opening stage’s mixture of surfaces, including lengthy sections riding across packed sand, had seen riders protest earlier this week at what they considered was an excessively dangerous course. At one point the possibility that the peloton would refuse to race the opening stage at all began to hover over the Vuelta.
However, intense negotiations on Thursday led to an agreement made public midday on Friday that the stage, whilst still held on the original route, would only count for the teams ranking and not for the individual general classification.
Under the circumstances and after such a fraught build-up to the Vuelta start, a crash on the 7.4 kilometre course could have re-opened an unwelcome can of worms. But on Saturday evening, after the stage, Escartín said there had been no incidents to report.
"There were no problems, fortunately, it all went well. This was the opening segment of the race and it was a bit different, as we saw, but fortunately there were no incidents," Escartín told Cyclingnews after the stage.
Escartín recognised that teams such as Sky, Movistar and Astana had clearly opted not to fight for the stage win and first, largely symbolic, lead of la Vuelta, where they had far more to lose than to gain by fighting for a team time trial win.
"Their main interest in the race is the battle for the individual overall classification, and so [the way they raced] had a clear logic," he told Cyclingnews.
"But in any case, everybody went fast on today’s course. It wasn’t like anybody was braking."
Having got through stage one with no incidents, Escartín said that the race can now move on and resume ‘business as usual’ on Sunday’s hilly 158 kilometre stage from Alhaurin de la Torre to Caminito del Rey, ending with a summit finish.
"Tomorrow (Sunday) we start with a difficult, different stage, over winding, undulating roads and with a short but tough climb at the end." In comparison with Saturday’s start to la Vuelta, in any case, for the organisers stage two should prove far more straightforward.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 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. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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