By David Hunter
Torrevieja 13.4km TTT
We begin with a team time trial.
The official profile is a little misleading, thanks to the scale on the y-axis. This is a better profile to look at.
It’s still not particularly hilly, but it does have a long drag for the teams to negotiate. The route doesn’t have many corners, it’s an untechnical day for the teams. At just 13.4km, the gaps are going to be small, there just isn’t enough ground to make big differences. This is music to the ears for the climbers in weak teams, they won’t have their Vuelta ruined on day 1.
Please note that the time will be taken on the fifth rider across the line, not the fourth.
We start with lots of sun and a light wind coming from the east, which should be constant for all the teams.
Jumbo-Visma – after their Tour de France win, the Dutch boys start as the big favourites, even without some of their big TT engines. As they still have Roglič, Kruijswijk and Tony Martin, they should have enough horsepower to go very close. They do have a few weaker riders in their squad, I don’t expect them to be dominant, and I sense they are worried about a few teams.
EF Education First – after a season impressing on the TT bike, it will be interesting to see how they go in this one. The likes of Urán, Carthy, Martinez, Van Garderen and Craddock will hope they are challenging for the red jersey, but that certainly won’t be easy. On a route like this, you also need to have some fast men, and a lack of sprinting power does concern me a little. I think they have too many climbers to win this one.
QuickStep – never underestimate the Belgians. They might be missing some raw TT power, but they have some very fast riders in their squad, and lots of experience. The likes of Štybar, Gilbert, Richeze and Declercq can spring a surprise. The length of this TTT means that teams require a lot of power to win, this is something they have.
Movistar – always do well on home soil, but I can’t see them rolling back the years and taking a rare win.
Ineos – another team that has the power to do well. They don’t have big TT names like Jumbo, but they have the right mix of speed and power for me. Remember that we only have 13.4km to cover, a track rider like Doull will be worth his weight in gold.
Bora – the dark horse for the win. Arriving with riders like Bennett ensures they have the speed factor covered, they also have plenty of power in the likes of Mühlberger and Poljański. It’s very unlikely they’ll win, but I expect to see them challenging for the podium.
Mitchelton-Scott – have a great TTT pedigree, but this team looks way below their normal standard.
Very fine margins will determine the winner of the stage, and the first red jersey of La Vuelta. I see this as a fight between Jumbo, QuickStep and Ineos, with the odd surprise thrown in for good measure. My heart says QuickStep, but the head says Jumbo-Visma. For once in my life I’ll let my head do the talking, Jumbo-Visma to take the opening stage.
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