When Jumbo-Visma have the numbers, the intent, and the watts, there's only one thing that their rivals can do: hang on. That's exactly what happened on the opening stage of the Vuelta a España, with a summit finish at Arrate, as the Dutch team put almost all their rivals to the sword.
When the dust settled, there were considerable gaps to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Chris Froome (Ineos Grenadiers), and Alexander Vlasov (Astana). Even Jumbo-Visma's own Tom Dumoulin was taken down by friendly fire and lost close to a minute as his teammate Primož Roglič won the stage and moved into the first leader's jersey.
Roglič began the Vuelta in the same fashion as he started the Tour de France and won the stage, with only Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Dan Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation), Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott), Felix Großschartner (Bora-Hansgrohe), Enric Mas (Movistar) and Hugh Carthy (EF Pro Cycling) finishing within touching distance of the Tour de France runner-up.
Roglič made use of some excellent work from Sepp Kuss on the final climb before attacking with 900m to go and, while there were spirited rides from Martin, Mas and Carthy, there were some dismal days for some of the pre-race favourites.
Last year’s runner-up and former winner Valverde had no response when Kuss put in a huge attack with 4.6km to go on Arrate but he wasn’t the only GC candidate to struggle. Dumoulin, who only yesterday told Cyclingnews that he had designs on the podium, followed the Spaniard out the back of the lead group, while Davide Formolo and David De la Cruz (UAE Team Emirates) followed suit.
Chaves, George Bennett and surprise package Großschartner were able to make contact with the Kuss group after a brief lull in pace but there was no way back for Dumoulin and Valverde, who, along with Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), De la Cruz and Formolo lost 51 seconds to Roglič. Their GC hopes have been dented but this is still early in the race and form at this point can be deceptive, but the signs of a Valverde or Dumoulin challenge are already on the back foot.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) lost marginally more time - 1:08 to be precise - with Marc Soler (Movistar) also conceding ground. Wout Poels' (Bahrain McLaren) top-ten chances took a major dent, with the Dutchman losing 1:51, but the Groupama-FDJ tandem of David Gaudu and Thibaut Pinot had an even worse time. Gaudu, who came into the race as a protected rider, dropped 2:22 after finishing in 35th place. Pinot, who came into the race hunting confidence and stage wins, dropped 10 minutes and can now focus on his pre-race aims.
Astana saw Alexander Vlasov crack and lose 4:31, with teammate Luis León Sánchez eventually pacing him home.
Froome, who came into the race to support Carapaz and build towards next year, finished 71st and lost 11:12. He had been dropped on the penultimate climb of the Alto de Elgeta – a third category climb, 6.2km in length - but came back to the front group before eventually sitting up and rolling into the finish.
While Carthy kept the flag flying for EF Pro Cycling, two of their leading riders were caught up in crashes and lost their chances of a high place in the overall standings. Daniel Martínez, who heads to Ineos Grenadiers next year, lost 4:29 on the stage while a crash coming into the penultimate climb ruined Michael Woods' chances of both the stage and the overall. The Canadian crossed the line in 157th place, 18:29 down on Roglič.
The 2020 Vuelta a España is only a day old but already the GC standings have begun to take shape.
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