24 August 2013

La Vuelta a España 2013 Stage 1: Vilavona de Arousa to Sanxenxo

Welcome to the final Grand Tour cycling stage race of the year La Vuelta a España. This year's route starts in the north west and except from some Pyrenean excursions to France and Andorra is completely within Spain.

While La Vuelta may be the baby of the Grand Tours, this is only its 68th edition to the Tour de France's 100 and the Giro d'Italia's 96 it more than makes up for it in the brutish climbs and soaring heat as the riders go on their way around Spain.

The 2012 champion Alberto Contador took part in the Tour as his ban ended during the 2012 edition of the race and the 2011 champion Juan José Cobo is also not in the starting line up for La Vuelta. However, there are some big names among the team leaders who will be looking to wear the red jersey when the race enters Madrid. 

  • Alejandro Valverde the 2009 winner leads the Movistar team
  • 2010's winner Vincenzo Nibali is looking to add the 2013 Vuelta to the Giro he won in May for Astana
  • Two time Giro d'Italia winner (2006, 2010) Ivan Basso takes part in only he second Vuelta (from 16 Grand Tour starts) for Cannondale, though he was 4th in 2009.
  • Joaquim Rodriguez Kathusa who finished 3rd last year and 4th in 2010, plus 2nd in last year's Giro is looking to fill that one missing podium step
  • 2011 Giro winner Michele Scarponi for Lampre
  • 2008 Olympic Champion Samuel Sanchez for Euskaltel-Euskadi will be looking to improve on his second in 2009, it is likely to be the veteran's final Grand Tour
Then there are others looking to step out of other's shadows:
  • Sergio Henao finished 2nd in the 2012 Giro in support of Rigoberto Uran and 14th in last year's Vuelta in support of Chris Froome, steps up to lead Sky, with Uran riding in support or to step up if called upon
  • Roman Kreuziger who rode valiantly but in vain for his leader Alberto Contador in this year's Tour de France to finish just behind him in 5th is leading Saxo-Tinkoff
It will be the first time that NetApp-Endura will feature in a Grand Tour, the German based UCI Pro Continental team are marking a return to Grand Tours of German sponsorship since T-Mobile became Highroad at the start of 2008.

For British cycling fans without Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome or Mark Cavendish there is still some domestic interest. Luke Rowe is making his Grand Tour debut for Team Sky, Adam Blythe is a sprinter who has started 3 Giros already and completed in the tough conditions this spring and the other is the Scot Andrew Fenn who is a bit more of an opportunist rouleur with a sprint finish.

Today's first stage is the team time trail (TTT) taking place up in Galicia in the north west of the country. For 27.4km it more of less hugs the coast from Vilvona de Arousa to Sanxenxo. If you notice that island near the start town the Vuelta will be revisiting there for the last sprint on the third stage in a brief excursion out along the bridge and back. 

Today's stage is 2.4km longer than the circuit of Nice that the teams in this year's Tour de France but 10km longer than the TTT in this year's Giro d'Italia. The gap from best to worse were 1'47" in the Tour between Orica-GreenEDGE and Argos-Shimano and 1'13" in the Giro between Team Sky and Argos-Shimano.

The only thing I can predict about this stage is that Argos-Shimano will have a hard time not to be the last team in all three of the Grand Tour TTTs this season. Line honours will go to one of the well drilled teams such as Sky, Astana, Movistar, Orica-GreenEDGE or Kathusha.

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