Vuelta a España (st. 1)
Movistar Team certifies its great collective level once again, takes 5th at Vuelta a España opener after disgraceful mechanical from Intxausti. Astana wins, Brajkovic takes red
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They earned recognition from the whole world of cycling as a power in team time trials last season in the streets of Pamplona, and they confirmed once again their top level today in the opening ride of the 2013 Vuelta a España. Movistar Team claimed the 5th place in the 27.4-kilometer parcours from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo, a very fast route, with tail winds and plenty of small bumps that took everything out of the squads present in Galicia.
Lastras and Gutiérrez sacrificed themselves for the group in the opening phase, with the telephone squad clocking the 2nd fastest time after 9km. Shortly after the first intermediate point, Beñat Intxausti suffered from an ill-timed chain drop that make him leave the group and lose two-and-a-half minutes at the finishing line. The rest of the line had to stay together for the decisive part of the race, with the men directed by Eusebio Unzué able to keep up the pace and reach the line with five men together -Erviti dropped just before the final kilometer-, twenty-nine seconds behind Astana.
Slovenian Jani Brajkovic will tackle tomorrow the first mountain-top finish in the red jersey of the Spanish grandtour. 178 kilometers are scheduled from Pontevedra to the Cat-1 Monte da Groba in Baiona: 11km at 5.6% average, with slopes over 10% maximum.
Eusebio Unzué: “The 5th place says we’re still on the same line of good results from the last team time trials, close to the best specialists, but the worst expectations were confirmed as we lost half a minute to Nibali – it’s quite a gap. It was sad to see Beñat dropping, especially as he was riding so strong – we really missed him into the second half of the TT. Those who were able to stick until the end made a very decent effort. We knew we didn’t have the best specialists of the team here, and we claimed a good result – we already knew we could be close to the top ones, but it was reassuring and this confirmed we have a balanced block, with all guys in good shape. Thus, the overview must stay relatively positive, because despite losing time to Nibali, we were even better than the other GC guys, and keeping Purito thirty seconds behind is a positive side, too. The first big test for the GC guys is awaiting us tomorrow – collective strength was the thing that mattered today, but the time for climbers comes tomorrow to show how they’re feeling, because a mountain-top finish into the second day of racing forces you to come in good condition.”
Alejandro Valverde: “It’s obvious that losing half a minute with Nibali is something not to keep out of mind, but the Vuelta will be long and nothing has been settled at all yet. The positive side is – we put thirty seconds on Purito. That’s why it was a good TT for us, even though it was really overshadowed by Beñat’s mechanical. It was a demanding time trial, it wasn’t the same to take turns with six rather than seven – his relays would have put us ten seconds faster. Tomorrow’s stage will be a day to pay much attention, not only because of the finish, but also due to the wind. We made a recon of the climb on Thursday and it’s a technical one – the opening five kilometers are hard, the climb eases up a bit after that, but the last 2k are really hard as well.”