28 August 2010
History was made in Sevilla yesterday night as the Vuelta a España ran a stage in the evening for the first time in the race’s 75th anniversary (and 65th running, war and internal Spanish conflict having sapped the race of ten competitive years over the span). Twenty-two teams were in the Andalucian city looking for the first lead of the 2010 Vuelta, hoping their nine riders would prove fastest on this day. The race was set to begin with a team time trial through the streets of the ancient city, with Footon-Servetto — the Spanish ProTour squad that would be looking to Alberto Benitez (winner of the King of the Mountains at the 2007 Vuelta a Andalucía) as their leader — setting out first as the teams left the starting ramp in four-minute intervals after them.
By the end of the night, Footon-Servetto would be in dead last amongst the teams in the race, finishing 57 seconds in arrears of the winning time in the first stage. The first real powerhouse team to take to the starting ramp was Columbia, boasting the efforts of Slovakian time trial champion Martin Velits; his twin brother and former U-23 world champion Peter; recent GP Ouest-France winner Matthew Goss; the young American stage racer Tejay van Garderen, riding his first grand tour yet still an outside hopeful for a podium spot in Madrid three weeks from now… and, of course, the blinding finishing speed of the man who might just be the world’s fastest sprinter, Mark Cavendish. The 25-year-old Manxman came to Sevilla hoping to add some Vuelta stages to the six Giro d’Italia and 15 Tour de France victories he’s already amassed in his career.
The Columbia squad, with its heavy firepower lined up in Sevilla, captured the first lead in the 2010 Vuelta with their masterful performance in the nighttime TTT in Sevilla...
The Columbia squad shattered all the leading marks the first five teams had set on the road, shaving 18 seconds of Milram’s time, and all that was left was to watch their challengers roll into the finish to see if the time would hold as a victorious one. Lampre, centered around a trio of sprinters — reigning Tour de France green jersey Alessandro Petacchi, recent Tour de Pologne runner-up Grega Bole, and resurgent 36-year-old Danilo Hondo — slotted into second place ahead of Milram, coming within 14 seconds of Columbia. Three teams later, an even sterner challenge was issued by another Italian team, Liquigas. While they were without Giro winner Ivan Basso, the Italians came to Spain with a stout roster that had intentions of restoring its spot in the top five of the UCI World Rankings. Roman Kreuziger, Vincenzo Nibali, Daniele Bennati and the rest muscled their way to the line… but while they pipped Lampre by four seconds, it was still was ten seconds outside of Columbia’s leading pace.
Caisse d’Epargne, winner of last year’s race with the now-suspended Alejandro Valverde, missed their leader as they ended with a time outside the top ten spots. Right behind them, Saxo Bank charged through with hopes of putting their bright young hope Andy Schleck (racing his last grand tour for the team alongside his brother as the two plan to depart for the newly-formed Luxembourg Cycling Project after the 2010 season) into the leader’s jersey. Schleck, you may remember, was the rider who took the fight to Alberto Contador less than two months ago on the roads of France. This time around the team brought another strong crew, with world time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara in the mix to set a torrid pace. But they, too, were too slow on the night. Bjarne Riis’ boys stopped the clock twelve seconds slower than the Columbia crew, unable to surpass even Liquigas and forced to settle for third in the standings.
The only team left with any hope was Rabobank, looking to place their contender (and the only former champion in this year’s race) Denis Menchov into a strong position heading into the Vuelta’s first week. But the longtime standard-bearer for Dutch cycling teams has never been that strong in the team time trial discipline, lacking the engines to drive the echelon a la Columbia or Garmin or Saxo Bank or Liquigas. Finishing 18th out of the 22 teams, they forfeited 36 seconds on the road to the leaders. In the process, Menchov begins the rest of the race already down 26 seconds to Kreuziger and Nibali, 24 seconds behind the Schlecks and 23 seconds from Carlos Sastre. It isn’t an insurmountable gap, but it is a wider margin than the Rabobank leadership had hoped to see.
Once the dust settled into the Spanish night, no team had managed to come within ten seconds of Columbia’s winning time, and Cavendish wrapped himself in another leader’s jersey after his team also won the team time trial at the opening stage of the 2009 Giro d’Italia. Columbia was able to sit at the finish, watching with confidence, for over an hour as team after team tried in vain to knock them from their perch. The pageantry of the nighttime finish set the perfect stage for what is sure to be a contentious race over the next three weeks. Cavendish became the first to drape himself in the newly-designed GC leader’s jersey, a red-and-black affair designed specifically for the diamond anniversary celebration. Would he be able to claim another stage victory on Sunday?
STAGE 1 RESULTS
|1||Team HTC – Columbia||0:14:06|
|2||Liquigas – Doimo||0:00:10|
|3||Team Saxo Bank||0:00:12|
|4||Cervelo Test Team||0:00:13|
|5||Lampre – Farese Vini||0:00:14|
|6||Garmin – Transitions||0:00:17|
|7||Omega Pharma – Lotto|
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBR) Team HTC-Columbia||0:14:06|
|2||Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia|
|3||Martin Velits (SVK) Team HTC-Columbia|
|4||Lars-Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC-Columbia|
|5||Hayden Roulston (NZL) Team HTC-Columbia|
|6||Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) Team HTC-Columbia|
|7||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC-Columbia|
|8||Matthew Goss (GBR) Team HTC-Columbia|
|9||Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||0:00:10|
|10||Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo|
|1||Mark Cavendish (GBR) Team HTC-Columbia||25||pts|
|2||Peter Velits (Svk) Team HTC-Columbia||20|
|3||Martin Velits (SVK) Team HTC-Columbia||16|
|4||Lars-Ytting Bak (Den) Team HTC-Columbia||14|
|5||Hayden Roulston (NZL) Team HTC-Columbia||12|
|6||Kanstantin Sivtsov (Blr) Team HTC-Columbia||10|
|7||Tejay Van Garderen (USA) Team HTC-Columbia||9|
|8||Matthew Goss (GBR) Team HTC-Columbia||8|
|9||Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||7|
|10||Frederik Willems (Bel) Liquigas-Doimo||6|