Stage 1 of this year’s Vuelta begins in north-west Spain, not too far from the northern edge of Portugal, and it’s a 27.8km team time trial that will take the riders into the Parque Náutico de Castrelo de Miño in the Spanish province of Ourense. Despite it being a flat course throughout, the length alone could throw up some significant time gaps from the word go. It’s a largely uncomplicated affair, with a couple of near-180 degree turns thrown in for good measure. The G.C. men won’t be able to ease into the race at all, and it’s a decent opportunity for a strong team to gain early valuable seconds for its leader.
This stage is a little difficult to predict, given that there are a variety of factor in play for the riders — including current form, levels of tiredness, but also level of motivation for a TTT win. The sensible thing to do will be to single out those teams who are both hoping for G.C. success, and who have a decent track record of team time trials. Step forward Spain’s very own Movistar. Movistar have a great history of launching their grand tour campaigns on the right foot with a strong TTT showing, and they bring a very handy squad with them this time. Valverde and Quintana can put down a fair bit of power (especially the former rider), but they’ve also got Jonathan Castroviejo with them, fresh from is stunning fourth-place ride in the Olympic time trial. Movistar will be highly motivated for this one, and we expect them to set one of the strongest times on the day.
Another key contender will be team Sky. Sky have in the past dominated in this discipline, but they’ve never quite got back to the glory days of a Wiggins-led TTT squad, and their priorities lie elsewhere these days. That said, with Froome, Kwiatkowski, Kennaugh, Lopez, and other strong time trial riders on hand, they surely must be favourites for an early podium. If Froome is here to take the G.C. seriously, he’ll need his team to help him get off to a flying start.
That’s also the case for Alberto Contador and Tinkoff, but they might find this one a little difficult. Their aim will be to not lose too much time to the likes of Movistar and Sky, but we don’t think they’ll be getting further than the top 5 on a good day. It should be noted, though, that they surprised everyone by coming second here last year, so you never know. BMC, the reigning world TTT champs and last year’s winners here, will feel they have something to prove here, especially after Van Garderen’s relatively weak Tour de France. They’ve got a fair bit of firepower with Samuel Sánchez and Danilo Wyss, but, again, a win here might be too much to expect. The last of the big G.C. teams is Astana, and they might well surprise us with a podium-worthy display; when you take into account the collective power of Lopez, Cataldo, LL Sanchez, and Zeits (the latter in particular is in great form for an event like this), it’s clear they have a good all round team and a fine chance at an early lead.
Orica-BikeExchange came third in this event last year, and got Chaves off to a flying start in the red jersey competition. However, their squad’s significantly different this year, with arguably less emphasis on time trial riding. They’ve got seasoned stalwarts Svein Tuft and Simon Gerrans though, along with Jens Keukeleire who rode here last year. Add to that the power of Simon Yates and Magnum Cort Nielsen, and they’ve got a decent chance of taking some time for Chaves. A win seems less likely.
FDJ have really reconfigured themselves as a time trial team to fear, though their biggest guns are absent here. Still, with rider like Johan Le Bon on board, they might well get a decent result. Francophile fans can also pin hopes on the largely French squad of Ag2r, who haveriders like Jean-Christophe Peraud, Christophe Riblon, and Pierre Latour — a decent unit. And Etixx are worth a mention, with their classics-style riders Štybar and Terpstra alongside riders like Brambilla, Meersman, and Bouet. They could definitely get inside the top 5, and might make the podium with the right ride.
There are others worth watching, such as the sometimes surprising Caja-Rural, as well as the great line up at Giant-Alpecin, but we think the above teams will be the ones fighting for the podium spots. Want a pick for the stage win? It’s hard to be confident about a race like this, but we’ll go with Movistar.