Vuelta 1: Liquigas wins team time trial

Filippo Pozzato takes first leader's jersey

Italian team Liquigas won the first stage of the Tour of Spain on Saturday, a time trial of 7.7 kilometres in the southwestern city of Granada, that saw Filippo Pozzato take the first golden jersey of the race for the overall leader.

The Italian side came ahead of two Spanish teams: Euskaltel by eight seconds and Caisse d'Epargne by nine seconds.

"It was a nice victory for the whole team, particularly since I am leaving at the end of the season. They were nice enough to let me have it," said Pozzato who is heading to a new outfit, Russia's Katusha, next year.

Astana, the team belonging to race favourite and 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, finished in eighth place, 14 seconds behind Liquigas.

CSC of Contador's compatriot Carlos Sastre, the winner of this year's Tour de France, finished in fifth place, 11 seconds behind the winners.

Contador minimized the difference between him and the other two main Spanish favourites to win the tour - Sastre and Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne, the Tour of Spain runner-up in 2006.

"This first stage was a beautiful show and the team came out and gave it their all, which is the idea with which we have come to the Vuelta," he said.

"Everything went well because with respect to the other main favourites, Sastre and Valverde, the differences were minimum and you can't give them great improtance," he added.

Contador is attempting to become the first Spaniard to win cycling's three major stage races as he seeks to add the Tour of Spain to his Tour de France and Giro d'Italia titles.

Last year's champion, Russia's Denis Menchov, is not participating. The 3,133 kilometre-long (1,943-mile) Tour of Spain finishes in Madrid on September 21.

For full results, report and photos, visit Cyclingnews.com.

© AFP 2008

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