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Vuelta team time trial has unexpected outcomes

The stage standings of the opening team time trial of the Vuelta a Espana had several teams in unexpected places: teams that have previously dominated the discipline or had high aspirations like Garmin-Cervélo, Team Sky and RadioShack were nowhere near the winners Leopard Trek, while Liquigas-Cannondale, which took 15th in the Tour de France test, came a close second overall.

Defending Vuelta a Espana champion Vincenzo Nibali was understandably pleased with the performance, which put him on top of all of the main overall contenders.

"In the first part of the stage, Eros Capecchi and I did most of the work because that's where we could gain time," Nibali said. "It was a risk because it meant losing men who could have been helpful at the end but it was a calculated risk. I'm not surprised because we always do well at team time trials. The Tour de France this year was an exception. It's a good day for me because I've gained time on my adversaries."

Skil-Shimano held the early fast time in its Vuelta debut, ending the day in seventh overall, a pleasant surprise for the Dutch team. "The tactic was: stay united in the 3km long climb, not take any risk in the downhill and ride flat out on the flat," said team captain Alexandre Geniez. "It was quite simple and it went well for our team. We're happy with our result. This is my first Grand Tour and I mostly want to be competitive in the mountain."

Several team had mishaps on the technical Benidorm course, with riders from Geox, Saxo Bank, Lampre and Sky crashing and others suffering mechanical issues.

Two-time Vuelta winner Denis Menchov lost almost 40 second to Nibali as the Geox-TMC team finished next to last in the 13.5km stage. The bad luck started when David Blanco clipped a pedal in a 180-degree turn.

"The fall inevitably broke our rhythm and cost the team some precious seconds," said directeur sportif Joxean Fernandez Matxin. "In the fall we lost at least 20 to 25 seconds.

"After the fall we tried to take the curves more carefully to avoid any further delays. If it hadn't been for this problem the guys had the legs to at least score closer times to the other favourite teams in this Vuelta, like Katusha and Euskaltel. Anyway, this time difference isn't too worrying because the race has just begun."

The Lampre-ISD team of Michele Scarponi had a similar incident, with both Francesco Gavazzi and Marco Marzano going down. They finished 16th, 32 seconds behind Leopard Trek.

RadioShack's 14th place had a lot to do with Janez Brajkovic's mechanical at the start. "Waiting for him has lasted 25 seconds but it seemed an eternity," said team manager Johan Bruyneel. "After that, we had to limit the damage."

Team Sky had a touch of wheels that took out Xabier Zando and Kurt-Alse Arvesen, leaving the team scrambling to get five riders together for the finish and putting Bradley Wiggins 42 seconds in arrears in the GC hunt.

"That wasn't the best of starts to be honest," said Chris Sutton. "We'd gone over everything a lot in the past few days and thought we had it down to a tee. We'd changed the order a few times and got it perfect, and we started out great.

"It was all going well until there was a touch of wheels or something which meant Zandio had to unclip. Kurt also crashed at that point which was hard because it meant everyone behind him had to chase a couple of bike-lengths to get back on.

"We regrouped as best we could and gave it everything, and although we lost 42 seconds, over a three-week race that's going to be insignificant. It would've been nice if we could have got a result for Bradley, but we all gave it 100% and that's all you can ask for at the end of the day.

Saxo Bank's Nick Nuyens took a dramatic tumble after losing traction a bend and hopping up onto the sidewalk before going head over heels into a ditch.

"I had a flat tire at the worst time possible. We were going very fast downhill and entering a roundabout at the end of the ascent, my tire was suddenly flat and I lost control of the bike and ended in the ditch. The right side of my body is pretty bruised but it's only superficial. Luckily, nothing's broken but my left hand is really sore but I'm happy to be able to continue the race," said Nuyens.

Astana's Robert Kiserlovski was surprised with the team's fourth place finish. He admitted he was scared on the descents and narrow roads as he is still healing from a crash in Paris-Nice. "I had a broken vertebra and my osteopath told me that it will be a year before healing is complete, then meanwhile, I have to stay vigilant!"

Garmin-Cervélo finished ninth after rookie Andrew Talansky broke his chain. "He's a time trial specialist and we missed him", said the team's directeur sportif Johnny Weltz. "However, the team went well. It wasn't the same team as at the Tour de France and we couldn't win here."

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