As expected, HTC-Columbia crushed the previous best time of Team Milram early on by 18 seconds with an average speed of over 55 kilometers per hour in the hot, incredibly well lit darkness of Sevilla. Great Britain’s most successful Tour de France rider ever, Mark Cavendish, led home the HTC-Columbia army. At that point, none of the other TTT powerhouses had gone, so the HTC-Columbia time was anything but certain when they finished. An hour later, however, and the time stood taller than ever. The closest anyone came to the time of the California based team was the broad expanse of time of 10 seconds to Giro d’Italia TTT winners, Liquigas-Doimo.
Mark Cavendish pulled on the first bright red leader’s jersey of this year’s Vuelta a Espana, and the late bloomer of the 2010 season continues to gather steam as all eyes gradually turn toward Australia and the World Championships on October 3rd. Cavendish can already call his Vuelta a nice, if hot, trip to Spain, but if the likely stage wins and great training follow, it could be the groundwork behind his possible victory in Geelong.
10 seconds behind, Liquigas put together another solid team time trial effort, while 3rd placed Saxo Bank looked more than a bit threadbare as they crossed the line 12 ticks in arrears.
A Closer Look
There was much debate over whether the nighttime team time trial to start the Vuelta a Espana was a good idea or even a terrible one. The opening section of the course consisted of technical chaos over narrow roads, cobbled stretches, turnarounds, and roundabouts. The course opened up some over the latter half and allowed for some full throttle speeds. The narrow nature of the early sections of the course mandated some serious horsepower in the opening riders though, as a normal rotation just wasn’t possible.
Milram set an early best time of 14:34, putting a huge chunk of time into the previous fastest team, but it wouldn’t be long before a fire breathing HTC-Columbia squad would put paid to the Milram best time.
Euskaltel looked a bit rag tag over the initial technical sections, but they’ve never put together much of a team time trial effort in their entire history. It was an important TTT for Euskaltel though, as a solid effort early on could be vital to late Vuelta success for the team’s captain, budding GC star, Igor Anton. The team settled down though and eventually got into a fast rhythm, which netted them a respectable, but certainly not ideal, time about half a minute down.
Omega Pharma-Lotto were the next team to come in with a chance at the best time, but even the best efforts of the newly wed Walloon, Philippe Gilbert, couldn’t get them within a kilometer an hour of HTC-Columbia’s fast time. The efforts of Belgium’s other top team were good enough to move them into 2nd place, 17 seconds behind Bob Stapleton’s boys.
Team Sky started right as FdJ finished well back of the HTC clan. Sky came into the day with high hopes and a bunch of TTT work in the days leading up to tonight’s showdown. Sky looked fast, but almost immediately, the line was stretched to the breaking point, and as Juan Antonio Flecha led the black and blue team home, the result was far from what had been hoped for: 14th when it was all over with.
As one top favorite fell terribly short of TTT expectations, another one was set to go: Garmin-Transitions. Almost immediately, Garmin lost a rider, but overall, they looked fast and efficient on the beautiful streets of the autonomous community of Andalucia’s capital. Unfortunately, looking fast and going fast aren’t quite the same thing, and Garmin came in 16 seconds back to eventually take 6th,
Liquigas, never seen as a big favorite in the team time trials, managed a huge upset earlier this season with victory in the TTT at the Giro. Could they do it again? Almost immediately, the lime green boys separated into four groups. The front rider swung off at one point, but the rider on his wheel was still two bike lengths behind him, and the last rider in line was a good 50 meters back. The team, led by Giro podium finisher, Vincenzo Nibali, ended up righting the ship though and got it together in a big way to finish 10 seconds behind HTC-Columbia.
With three of the superpowers of TTTs done, there remained only one with a reasonable chance at victory it seemed: Saxo Bank. On the start line, the jersey’s we’ve grown accustomed to over the summer of 2010 were switched. Andy in his Luxembourg time trial champion kit, Frank quietly next to him in his normal jersey, and then Cancellara in his Olympic champion motif helmet. It seemed that this could be the team. Unsurprisingly, Stuart O’Grady led them out with Fabian Cancellara in second wheel, ready to do his worst over the difficult opening section – Gustav Larsson was on his wheel. Talk about a 1-2 punch. A little over 14 minutes later though and the promising start had unraveled with what appeared to be Dominic Klemme far ahead of everyone else and a visibly exhausted, irritated Fabian Cancellara leading home the rest of Bjarne Riis’s troops behind the solo rider. They had managed a solid time, but it was not nearly enough to even make Mark Cavendish blink in the hot seat.
Sunday’s Stage 2 journey of 173 km from Alcala de Guadaira to Marbella will be a hot, hilly affair with two category three climbs to contend with, but a likely sprint finish to allow the gathered sprinting elite a chance to show off their wares.
1. HTC-Columbia 14:06
2. Liquigas-Doimo 0:10
3. Saxo Bank 0:12
4. Cervelo Test Team 0:13
5. Lampre 0:14
6. Garmin-Transitions 0:17
7. Omega Pharma-Lotto 0:17
8. Team Milram 0:18
9. Team Katusha 0:20
10. Quick Step 0:23