This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Movistar won the opening stage of this year's Vuelta a Espanawith a commanding display in the opening team time trial in Pamplona on Saturday. The Spanish team was led home by Jonathan Castroviejo, and the 25-year-old pulled on the first leader's jersey in this year's race. Jose Cobo, the defending champion, was distanced just before the line, losing seconds to Movistar's first five riders. The home favourites beat Rabobank into second place by 10 seconds, while Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank) finished 15 seconds adrift, but just three seconds down on fellow race favourite Chris Froome (Team Sky).
It looked as though Rabobank would take the win until Movistar, the last team to start, rolled down the ramp.Rabobank was only eighth fastest at the first time check at 8.1 kilometres but kept its pace throughout the technical sections that littered the streets of Pamplona before the finish in the local bull ring, and while a number of other teams fractured through the final bends.
Team after team beat Rabobank's intermediate time with Sky, Saxo Bank, Astana Katusha, and Lotto-Belisol all going faster than its time of 9:21. However each squad crumbled on the run-in. An impatient Jurgen Van Den Broeck surged to the front and dropped his Lotto teammates, while Sky, who had set the fastest time at the first check, simply appeared to run out of gas.
Movistar had started strongly though. It was two seconds down on Sky at the first check point but 11 seconds ahead of Rabobank. The only question would be if the team would go the same way so many others and come up short inside the closing kilometres. However, roared home by the local support, and with Miguel Indurain watching from the stands, Movistar demolished Rabobank's time by 10 seconds, finishing in a time of 18:51. The only blemish was the sight of Cobo crossing the line a few seconds back, the defending champion unable to keep pace as his team approached the line. For Castroviejo, it was moment to savour as he donned the leader's jersey in his home grand tour. Incidentally he was making his Grand Tour debut.
Jonathan Castroviejo, race leader
There was less fortune for Garmin-Sharp. The American team was outside hopes for the stage win and set an early pace that indicated it might be in contention, but disaster struck when a number of its riders crashed after the intermediate time check. GC contender Andrew Talansky remained upright but the damage to the rhythm was irreparable, and the team limped home in second-last, 1:28 adrift of the winners.
Starting in the Plaza del Castillo, it was Caja Rural who rolled down the ramp to begin this year’s Vuelta. Orica and Garmin soon followed but it was BMC who posted the first threatening time of 19:03. Philippe Gilbert led it home, and it seemed possible that he could break his horrendous 2012 duck that has seen him ride without a win.
However, despite last year's team time trial winners RadioShack falling away, Rabobank was soon on the case, ripping through the streets of Pamplona. Astana, and Katusha came up short and it looked as though Sky would ruin the Dutch party. In the final time trial at this year's Tour, Rabobank's Luis Leon Sanchez was held in the hot seat only to watch Froome and Bradley Wiggins topple his time, and Sky's marginal gains looked on course for a repeat at the first time check and although Movistar hung at two seconds back, all eyes were on Froome's foot soldiers and the nine Rabobank men waiting in the bull ring. When Sky crossed the line in fourth, it looked as though Rabobank was safe but Movistar were still to come and as witnessed at the Olympics, athletes can reach incredible height in front of their home crowds.