Movistar won the kickoff to the 2014 Vuelta a España on Saturday, a tricky team time trial, putting Jonathan Castroviejo into the first red leader’s jersey.
“We all nine rode to perfection,” said Castroviejo. “It was my honor to take the jersey, but this is a prize for the whole team — without my teammates, it would have been impossible.”
The first stage was a 12.6km TTT on a winding, technical course through the streets of Jerez de la Frontera, at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
Cannondale proved a surpringly strong contender, setting a time that eluded the likes of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Sky, and Orica-GreenEdge.
But the green machine was dethroned at last by the final team to start as Movistar covered the course in 14 minutes and 13 seconds, six seconds better than Cannondale. Orica-GreenEdge rounded out the podium in the same time.
“We have been preparing all season for a team time trial like this one,” said Castroviejo, who said the team started out carefully on the technical course.
“Our main goal was to not fall, because we have two leaders, so we started out being very careful, and we stayed together,” he said. “The end was perfect for us — we not only won, but took some important gains on our rivals. We never expected to win.”
However, the Vuelta’s first race leader declined to say whom Movistar would be trying to put into the final red jersey at this Vuelta — Giro d’Italia champion Nairo Quintana or Alejandro Valverde.
“Until we get to the mountains we don’t know who we will be supporting,” said Castroviejo.
Chris Froome found himself in a 27-second hole early on as Sky could manage only 11th on the day. Alberto Contador was 19 seconds down as Tinkoff-Saxo crossed seventh. But Trek Factory Racing rebounded nicely after crashing in training to hit the line fourth, nine seconds off Movistar’s winning pace.
“I’ve got to admit that we were all hoping for a better result,” said Froome. “But a difference of 30 seconds is not much. There are 21 days of racing. I’ll try to make up time wherever I can.”
Omega Pharma’s Rigoberto Uran said the team “was okay” with finishing fifth at 11 seconds back.
“I think we did a good TTT,” he said. “The course was quite technical with 22 roundabouts in a little more than 12 kilometers, and we must also remember that this is just the beginning of La Vuelta. We will see what happens in the next days. As usual the first few stages will be nervous and maybe the wind here in the South of Spain can also be a factor.”
Contador likewise called Tinkoff’s finish “a good result.”
“My heart was racing at 200bpm because I am missing a bit of form,” he said. The most important thing was to avoid mistakes, and to get back to racing. We rode together well, and did the best we could. It was a bit dangerous in a few places. The most important thing is to recover well.”
Sunday’s stage 2 is a relatively flat 174km leg from Algeciras to San Fernando.