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Vuelta a Espana 2016: Stage 1

Live coverage of stage 1 of the Vuelta a Espana, the 27.8-kilometre team time trial from the Balneario de Laias thermal resort to the Parque Nautico de Castrelo.

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We're just under 20 minutes from the start of the 2016 Vuelta a Espana in Galicia. The 22 teams face a 27.8-kilometre team time trial with Bora-Argon 18 first down the start ramp at 5.26pm local time. The teams set off at four-minute intervals, and Alberto Contador's Tinkoff are the last team off, at 7.50pm.

The start order this evening is as follows:

1 Bora-Argon 18 18:26:00
2 Direct Energie 18:30:00
3 Lotto Soudal 18:34:00
4 Astana Pro Team 18:38:00
5 Lampre - Merida 18:42:00
6 Dimension Data 18:46:00
7 IAM Cycling 18:50:00
8 Caja Rural -Seguros RGA 18:54:00
9 FDJ 18:58:00
10 Etixx - Quick Step 19:02:00
11 Team Katusha 19:06:00
12 Cofidis, Solutions Credits 19:10:00
13 Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team 19:14:00
14 Ag2r La Mondiale 19:18:00
15 Trek - Segafredo 19:22:00
16 Orica-BikeExchange 19:26:00
17 Team Giant Alpecin 19:30:00
18 BMC Racing Team 19:34:00
19 Team Lotto NL -Jumbo 19:38:00
20 Movistar Team 19:42:00
21 Team Sky 19:46:00
22 Tinkoff 19:50:00

 

Our man in Galicia Alasdair Fotheringham has been to peruse this evening's team time trial course and you can read his assessment here. As Alasdair notes, the time trial features two long, flat and straightforward sections but they are broken up by two far more technical segments, which "will make it a real brainteaser for team managements when it comes to calculating their riders' relative strengths and where to use them to their best advantage."

 

At this point in the season, it's often difficult, too, to figure who has the form and the freshness to win the Vuelta a Espana. Alberto Contador's Tour de France challenge was cut short by crashes and illness, and that truncated July might give him an edge here, though he warned that he is not certain of his condition. "I like this course, I think it’s a nice one for me and the spectators. The tactics will depend on the state of my form and the race scenario," Contador said. "There’ll be some early gaps in the team time trial, then the first mountain stage on Monday could make a difference too."

 

Tour de France winner Chris Froome, meanwhile, lines up at the Vuelta for the fifth time in the past six years, though his surprise second place finish in 2011 remains his best showing in Spain. "For sure I’m not in the same sort of shape as I was at the beginning of the Tour de France but I’m just going to give it my best," Froome said at last night's team presentation.

 

Movistar, meanwhile, line out with both Nairo Quintana, third at the Tour de France, and Alejandro Valverde, third at the Giro d'Italia, in their ranks. The Colombian has admitted that he would settle now for a place in the top three in Madrid and has named Contador as the favourite for final overall victory.

 

Bora-Argon 18 roll down the start ramp and get the 2016 Vuelta a Espana underway. The men in black's line-up features Bartosz Huzarski, Cesare Benedetti and Scott Thwaites.

 

The next team to take the start will be Direct Energie. The French squad will be led at thisVuelta by Romain Sicard, who has plenty of experience south of the border, of course, from his time at Euskaltel-Euskadi.

 

The teams must face a short hill inside the opening kilometre of the parcours this evening, meaning that there is no gentle introduction to the action. The gaps between the main contenders' teams ought to be measured in seconds, but there are squads here with no GC ambitions of note, and they could concede minutes on a course like this.

 

Next up are Lotto Soudal and Adam Hansen, who is starting his 16th consecutive Grand Tour, a sequence that began at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana. Thomas De Gendt, winner on (though not quite atop) Mont Ventoux at the Tour de France is also in the line-up, and it will be interesting, too, to see how young talent Louis Vervaeke fares. The Belgian won the prestigious Ronde de l'Isard in his final year as an amateur in 2014.

 

Astana trundle down the start ramp and begin their Vuelta. Neither 2015 Vuelta winner Fabio Aru nor 2010 champion Vincenzo Nibali are in their line-up here, but Tour de Suisse winner  Miguel Ángel López sets out as team leader here.

 

And it's a disastrous start for Lopez, who slips his chain in the opening kilometres, and is forced to slow almost to a halt. His teammates wait for him, but Astana and Lopez have conceded precious ground early on here. This team time trial is already an exercise in damage limitation.

 

Lampre-Merida and Louis Meintjes set out on their effort. Four minutes up the road, meanwhile, Astana are finally at full flight after that spluttering start.

There are two official time checks on the course this evening, incidentally, after 9.4km and 18.2km. Direct Energie was the better of the first two starters at the 9.4km mark, 17 seconds better than Bora-Argon 18. 

 

The sixth starter, Dimension Data, won't have any real aspirations in this team time trial beyond getting around, but riders like Kristian Sbaragli and Nathan Haas, an impressive stage winner at the Vuelta a Burgos, will have ambitions to land a stage victory later in this race. 

 

 There are two official time checks on the course this evening, incidentally, after 9.4km and 18.2km. Bora-Argon 18 is the best of early starters at the 9.4km mark, 7 seconds up on Lotto Soudal and 17 seconds better than Direct Energie.

IAM Cycling roll down the start ramp to begin their final Grand Tour in the professional peloton. The Swiss team will disband at the end of the 2016 season, but Mathias Frank will be eager to make amends for a disappointing Tour de France here.

 

Astana reach the 9.4km point just 10 seconds down on Bora-Argon 18's time despite their early mishap - but the real reference points will surely come from Sky, Movistar, Tinkoff and BMC.

 

At the 18.2km point, meanwhile, Bora-Argon 18 are 33 seconds up on Direct Energie with 20 more teams still to come through...

 

Caja Rural-RGA Seguros are the eighth team to set out and the Spanish Pro Continental outfit won't be lacking in motivation here. British youngster Hugh Carthy will be the man to watch here after a sparkling season to this point. Already destined for Cannondale next season, Carthy will look to sign off on his stint at Caja Rural in style in what is his Grand Tour debut.

 

Meintjes and Lampre-Merida come through the 9.4km mark some 34 seconds off the pace of Bora-Argon 18.

 

Bora-Argon 18 cross the finish line in a time of 31:34. On the evidence of the first check point, that should last at least 20 minutes or so, though Astana are not too far off that pace...

 

Astana are 9 seconds behind Bora-Argon 18 at the 18.2km point. They've settled into a decent rhythm after Miguel Angel Lopez's early problems, but they will surely still lose clumps of time to the podium contenders this evening. 

 

Direct Energie are the second team to come home, and their time of 32:32 is 58 seconds slower than early pace-setters Bora-Argon 18.

 

FDJ and Etixx-QuickStep, meanwhile, are now out on the course, while Katusha sit in wait on the start ramp. 

 

Lotto Soudal cross the finish line some 30 seconds down on Bora-Argon 18's mark.

 

Eight teams have been through the first time check, and Bora-Argon 18 remain the quickest at the point. Caja Rural were the latest team to come past the 9.4km mark, 14 seconds down in fifth.

 

Astana recovered well over the back end of the course and recouped some ground on Bora-Argon 18. Lopez is among their leading five as they cross the finish line with the second best time to date. Their 31:35 puts them just one second behind Bora-Argon 18, but Lopez will be measuring himself against Tinkoff, Sky et al.

 

Cannondale have a solid squad for this Vuelta, led by Andrew Talansky. The American will have the support of Joe Dombrowski, Davide Formolo and Pierre Rolland here. The team, of course, has a less than auspicious recent track record in team time trials - including a crash in the corresponding stage in Galicia in 2013 - and their first aim here will surely be to get around safely. 

 

Etixx-QuickStep have set the new quickest time at the 9.4km mark, 13 seconds up on FDJ and 14 clear of Bora-Argon 18. At the finish, meanwhile, Dimension Data clock the third best time to date: their 31:54 is 20 seconds down on early leaders Bora-Argon 18.

 

Jean-Christophe Peraud sets off on his final Grand Tour in the company of his Ag2r-La Mondiale team, and it will be fascinating, too, to see how the highly-rated Pierre Latour fares on this Vuelta.

 

Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) speaks at the finish line: “We had a mechanical problem early on with my chain. The team had to wait for me but I’m really pleased with how we recouped time. My teammates did great work to help me. We lost maybe 10 to 15 seconds when I slipped my chain, but I think we recovered well all things considered."

 

Cannondale are 16 seconds down on Etixx-QuickStep at the 9.4km mark, the fourth best time at this point.

 

Bora-Argon 18's time looks better and better as the evening progresses. FDJ were matching Bora through the first time check but dropped off thereafter, and they come home with the third best time thus far. Their 31:42, however, is some 8 seconds down on Bora-Argon 18.

 

Etixx-QuickStep reach the finish line with the new fastest time. The Belgian is the first team to break the 31-minute mark, and their time of 30:59 is 35 seconds quicker than early leaders Bora-Argon 18.

 

Trek-Segafredo, Orica-BikeExchange, Giant-Alpecin and BMC are all now out on the course. There are just four teams now left to start - LottoNL-Jumbo, Movistar, Sky and Tinkoff.

 

Esteban Chaves and Orica-BikeExchange have begun their Vuelta on the front foot. The Australian squad hurtles through the 9.4km mark with the new quickest time, 9 seconds up on Etixx-QuicStep.

 

Cannondale cross the finish line with the second best time to date. Their 31:29 is 30 seconds down on Etixx-QuickStep.

 

Both Movistar and Team Sky are out on the road. Alberto Contadors Tinkoff squad, the final team off, readies itself on the start ramp.

 

BMC and Tejay van Garderen scorch through the 9.4km mark with the second best time, just fractions of a second down on Orica-BikeExchange.

 

Raucous cheers as Contador and Tinkoff set off down the start ramp to being their effort. Rather more muted applause at the finish line, as Ag2r roll home with the 12th best time to date, 1:26 down on Etixx-QuickStep.

 

Orica-BikeExchange have the best time at the 18.2km mark, though there is something of a caveat - for some reason, Etixx-QuickStep's time at the second check is missing from the live timing data provided by the Vuelta...

 

Van Garderen leads BMC through the 18.2km mark, six seconds up on Orica-BikeExchange. 

 

Orica-BikeExchange have clocked the new fastest time at the finish line. Their 30:43 is some 16 seconds quicker than Etixx-QuickStep. Their average speed was in excess of 54kph...

 

Damien Howson appeared to be the first Orica rider across the finish line, meaning that he would take the red jersey if their provisional quickest time survives to the end of the evening.

 

Chris Froome and Team Sky, meanwhile, were just 3 seconds down on Orica at the 9.4km mark...

 

Esteban Chaves speaks at the finish: "I'm happy. We rode the stage seven or eight times in training and we knew exactly where to make our changes. Hopefully we can win the stage."

 

Movistar are 13 seconds down on BMC at the second time check, while LottoNL-Jumbo have produced a solid ride to that point. Kruijswijk et al are only 7 seconds off the pace.

 

BMC led into that second time check, but they couldn't hold their pace over the final kilometres of the course. Van Garderen and company cross the line with the second best time, just one second down on Orica-BikeExchange.

 

Third best time for Team Sky at the second time check, 7 seconds down on BMC but just 1 second behind Orica.

 

Tinkoff, meanwhile, were 12 seconds off Orica's pace at the 9.4km mar. Contador is now two thirds of the way around the course and still has all of his teammates with him.

 

A very solid ride for LottoNL-Jumbo, who cross the line in 31:04 for the fourth best time to date, but Movistar are on the march behind them...

 

Movistar duly record the new fastest time. Alejandro Valverde leads them across the line in 30:37, six seconds clear of Orica and seven up on BMC. Movistar made up 14 seconds on BMC in the final 9 kilometres of the stage and 13 on Orica.

 

Team Sky cross the finish line in 30:37.04. Rather confusingly, it appears they were half a second or so slower than Movistar, but the Vuelta's on-screen graphics have Froome et al down as the provisional best time so far... We await confirmation of the precise lie of the land, but either way, that's a quick time from Sky.

 

The Vuelta's online timing system has Sky and Movistar both on 30:37, with Sky in first place.

 

Tinkoff will not trouble Sky or Movistar here. Contador et al are well down as they come home in 21:29 - 48 seconds off the pace. An inauspicious start for the pre-race favourite.

 

Pete Kennaugh led Sky across the finish line and will wear the first red jersey of the Vuelta a Espana. Sky finished with the bare five riders together, incidentally, with Froome the fifth man across the line.

 

The provisional results provided by the Vuelta organisation have LottoNL-Jumbo in 21st place on the stage, some 2:05 down on Team Sky, but by our reckoning, Kruijswijk et al were in fact 6th on the stage, 27 seconds behind Sky.

 

Assuming that detail is rectified, the big loser of the day vis a vis the general classification is Alberto Contador, who concedes 52 seconds to Froome, Quintana and Valverde. Though, like Alex Ferguson's Manchester United, the Spaniard has a penchant for Doing Things The Hard Way (TM).

 

Esteban Chaves lost just 6 seconds on the stage, and van Garderen conceded only 7. Kruijsiwijk (we think, the Vuelta doesn't seem to be sure) lost 27 seconds. Andrew Talansky, like Contador, lost 52 seconds, while Miguel Angel Lopez ultimately paid a price for that slipped chain as he and Astana lost 58 seconds by close of business.

 

Result:

1 Team Sky 00:30:37
2 Movistar 00:30:37
3 Orica-BikeExchange 00:30:43
4 BMC Racing Team 00:30:44
5 Etixx-QuickStep 00:30:59
6 LottoNL-Jumbo 00:31:04
7 Trek-Segafredo 00:31:27
8 Cannondale 00:31:29
9 Tinkoff 00:31:29
10 Bora-Argon 18 00:31:34
11 Astana Pro Team 00:31:35
12 FDJ 00:31:42
13 IAM Cycling 00:31:50
14 Katusha 00:31:54
15 Dimension Data 00:31:54
16 Lotto Soudal 00:32:04
17 Cofidis 00:32:11
18 Caja Rural-RGA Seguros 00:32:13
19 Ag2r-La Mondiale 00:32:25
20 Giant-Alpecin 00:32:27
21 Direct Energie 00:32:32
22 Lampre-Merida 00:32:46

 

Thanks for joining our live coverage of the Vuelta a Espana on an opening evening that sees Pete Kennaugh take the red jersey of race leader, while Chris Froome, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana all remain locked on the same time, and Alberto Contador finds himself with an early mountain to climb.

 

A full report, results and photographs will follow here, and we'll have all the news and reaction from Galicia in due course. And, as ever, we'll be back with more live coverage from stage 2 tomorrow, as the Vuelta peloton makes the 159-kilometre trek from Ourense to Baiona.

 

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