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Vuelta a Espana Stage 1 Recap

Vuelta-post_mediumHey all! Just a quickie recap of stage 1's TTT here since the official results were soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo (deep breath) ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo long in coming.

Official results here. Finally. Jonathan Castroviejo dons the red jersey! More review plus baseless speculation from yours truly as to why the results took so long on the jump.

Let's do this recap sort of as it happened:

1) Caja Rural and Orica-Greenedge started things off and finished their runs in an orderly fashion. They should get bonus points! Caja Rural I must point out, did not get any bonus seconds for their uniforms and they ultimately finished in last place.

2) Then things got...different. Darkhorse Garmin was next out of the start and things were going swimmingly as they passed by the halfway point in 1st, just ahead of Orica. Just after passing the halfway mark, their first rider, Tom Peterson, started to trail of the back, which was probably a planned thing. The next thing wasn't planned as...CRASH! I still haven't seen any video but Le Mevel, Dekker, Raymond Kreder, and Martijn Maaskant hit the deck. Counting Peterson that means just four were left up front, one too few, and those guys had to wait for Peterson and thus go slower to the finish than they had planned. The team came in next to last while Dekker and Kreder were the last two individuals bar one to finish. Team leader Andrew Talansky is now a good minute plus behind the other GC men.

My take: People talk about the poor luck. Like Boo hoo! My take is that I wonder if anyone has video of JV at a Crossroads somewhere in the Mississippi Delta cause I'm figuring the price for Ryder Hesjedal to win a Grand Tour is probably the constant subsequent crashes the rest of the team is now suffering.

3) BMC was next up and things settled down for a bit with them posting the new best time. Posters here were wondering if the time would stand and Philippe Gilbert would finally get his first win of the season. But, you know, the devil can cut more than one deal at a time, folks...

4) Bunch more teams start off and don't threaten the lead...Lampre, Leeky, RSNT, FDJ... until Rabobank steps up and just nips BMC for the new best time! Very exciting.

5) Next up OPQS-they were actually on the course right behind the Rabos-and here is where it gets weird and where I think the long delay in announcing the official results comes into play. What I write here comes from what I saw: The Quickies cross the line first, just ahead of Rabo by fractions of a second. THAT'S what was on the screen-OPQS was first on time. 2) Almost immediately-really just a couple seconds, tops, the standings changed and Rabobank was put back in first. This is the way the standings were all through the rest of the race and we got frequent camera shots of the Rabos sitting in the hot seat chairs with the understanding that if they stay there, Lars Boom was gonna don the red jersey later. THIS WAS ACTUALLY WRONG! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN OPQS UP THERE WITH NIKI TERPSTRA LOOKING TO BE THE 1ST WEARER OF THE RED JERSEY!!!!!!!!!

6) At any rate for the rest of the race, Rabobank was sitting in the hot seats. While this was gong on, Astana was on the course and outside of the cameras something happened to Enrico Gasparotto cause he eventually finished way behind his team and as it turns out way behind everyone, 9+ minutes back and it appears that he's missed the time cut. He was all brused up too so lets hope he heals quickly-in time for the Worlds RR since it is being held on part of the Amstel Gold Race course and he's the winner there this year. Bummer.

7) At this point we are starting to get to the business end of the stage and several teams posted good times: Lotto, Katusha (J-Rod leading to the line), and Euskaltel all posting good times just behind the top three of OPQS, Rabo, and BMC. Before I go on, I want to point out a couple of things again that I just wrote: the Euskies having a good time (!) and J0-Rod leading his team (!!!!). These things spoke to the nature of the course. The first half turned out to be fairly flat and fast: big boulevards, sweeping turns making for lots of speed. In fact by this point a couple of teams had hit the halfway point faster than Rabobank only to fade in the second half.

So what was happening since this course was only 16+km long? The very end is where the men were separated from the boys so to speak. The final km to be exact when the route got to the old town, with a) cobbles, b) an uphill, and c) some tight turns that killed momentum. So all of a sudden the race got really hard and teams fell off their pace. Look at the results and notice that the riders who lead the team at the finish were either serious TT/spring classic guys (Boom, Terpstra, Gilbert) or mountain goats (J-Rod, Contador, Van Den Broeck). And in positions 2, 3, and 4 were some combination fo the two. So keep al of this in mind when you wonder about the final order of the teams.

Where was I? Oh yes. Business Time! Final three teams: Sky (the pre-race favorite), Saxo, and defending champ Movistar. Sky is first and they blitzed the field at the halfway mark, the fastest of the day. Ho hum, we all said. That's to be expected. But no! As they tripped the wire at the end they were 4th, 2 seconds behind OPQS, Rabobank, and BMC!) You have to wonder what happened. They finished with just six riders but all the teams (almost) were finishing with five or six. But somehow the riders that they burned meant more to their speed than expected and the mountain goats Froome, Uran, and Henao did not pull through like other goats on other teams did. A portent for the future? Keep it in the back of your head...

8) Saxo next and any wonders if Contador was just easing into this race like he said he was were pretty quickly dispelled. He was on the front of his team frequently including all of the last km as they slid right behind Sky.

9) That left Movistar who won the day. 2nd at the halfway point to Sky by 2 seconds they finished 10 seconds ahead of the next teams, OPQS, Rabo, and BMC- not much of a lead in the long run but a huge gap on the day. This probably also dispels the sandbagging from that team (Cobo is in poor shape, Valverde wil have to wait and see if he has anything left, etc.).

10) But honors for donning the red jersey fell to Jonathan Castroviejo, who is quietly having a breakout TT-heavy season. If you look at that team, he's a perfect compliment to the the stars and makes it easy for them to let the six years older Vasil Kiriyenka leave. Hats off to Johnny!

A couple of final thoughts:

1) The storyline that this race is Contador vs Froome I think will be proven very, very wrong. First, J-Rod looks in great shape and this course is perfect for him. The Contador vs Froome thing is insulting to him-plus he has a very strong team behind him. Second, Movistar is loaded. Loaded. And they are peaking at the right time.