Vuelta a España organizers must have known what was in store when they decided to schedule a night-time team time trial to kick start the 65th edition of the Spanish grand tour.
With day-time temperatures soaring above 110F as an African heat wave pours across Spain, organizers seem like clairvoyants to select the very atypical starting time of 10 p.m. Temperatures will still be warm, hovering around 90F at night, but perhaps cool enough to draw fans away from the terraces of Sevilla.
Crews worked overnight to post barriers and install spotlights along the 13km route around the historic city center of Sevilla. More than 1,000 temporary light posts have been erected to illuminate the unusual, night-time stage.
The first team off is Footon-Servetto at 10:04 p.m. Teams will leave at four-minute intervals, with HTC-Columbia starting sixth at 10:24 p.m. and Garmin-Transitions at 11:04 p.m. Andalucia-Cajasur starts last of the 22 teams at 11:28 p.m.
The winning time should be under 15 minutes on the pan-flat course that loops around Sevilla’s historic district. Other than a half-dozen corners, the route is wide open and straight, with few technical sections to slow down the power riders.
The start ramp is right in front of Sevilla’s famous bullring – Real Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza – and ends 13km later at the Torre del Oro, a 13th century watch tower.
The route crosses the Guadalquiver River and passes through Sevilla’s Triana neighborhood, birthplace of many of Spain’s famous flamenco singers and dancers, and traces the river’s edge for 4.6km.
The route then loops around Sevilla’s historic district, skirting the narrow alleyways of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, before doubling back at the Parque de Maria Luisa with a tight, 180-degree right-hander. From there, it’s straight for 2.2km to the finish line.
The time is taken at the fifth rider across the line and any stragglers will be designated with their real time.
Favorites for the stage are Garmin-Transitions, Liquigas, HTC-Columbia and Saxo Bank.
Temperatures are expected to cool down slightly in the coming days as a new front blows in from the west, but riders can expect hellish conditions in Sunday’s 173.4km second stage from Alcalá de Guadaíra to Marbella.
There’s not a lot of turn-around time for the cyclists, especially anyone who might end up on the winner’s podium and post-race protocol, which could last almost until 1 a.m. Sign-in for Sunday’s stage begins at 12:25 p.m. and it’s at least a 45-minute drive from Sevilla to the start of the stage.
Start list for stage 1
1. Footon-Servetto, 10:04
2. Ag2r-La Mondiale, all at 4-minute intervals
6. HTC-Columbia, 10:24
7. Quick Step
12. Team Sky, 10:48
16. Garmin-Transitions, 11:04
18. Caisse d’Epargne
19. Saxo Bank
21. Cervélo TestTeam
22. Andalucia-Cajasur, 11:28