Vuelta a España: Jumbo-Visma tears to TTT triumph to set tone on Primož Roglic title defense
Jumbo-Visma tops Ineos Grenadiers and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl in Utrecht opener, with Robert Gesink scoring the first red jersey.
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Primož Roglič and Jumbo-Visma set the tone on their triple title defense with a dominant team time trial victory in the opening stage of the 2022 Vuelta a España.
The Dutch team Jumbo-Visma blitzed the 23.3km test through Utrecht, the Netherlands, to place Robert Gesink into the red leader’s jersey and deliver Primož Roglič the perfect start after his layoff with Tour de France injuries.
Ineos Grenadiers finished second, 13 seconds back, leaving Richard Carapaz perfectly poised in his hopes of challenging for the overall in Madrid.
Remco Evenepoel and Simon Yates also got off to strong starts after Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl and BikeExchange Jayco finished third and fourth respectively.
Evenepoel’s “Wolfpack” finished a split second slower than Ineos Grenadiers, 14 seconds down on Jumbo-Visma. BikeExchange’s time of fourth was fastest through much of the stage but worked out 31 seconds slower than a sizzling ride from Roglič’s wreckin’ crew.
The red jersey makes for a perfect gift for Jumbo-Visma workhorse Gesink. The 36-year-old Dutchman has been with the team his whole career and proved instrumental in many of its top victories.
“I can’t believe it,” Gesink said. “I’m really grateful to the boys, they were crazy strong. I’m really grateful to be in the red jersey. It’s one of the highlights of my career.
“I heard the intermediate splits and they were fast but obviously we had to make it to the end. Anything can happen in a TTT but I knew we had the possibility to win because we have so many strong guys in this group.”
Gesink will wear red in front of home Dutch crowds for stage 2 on Saturday.
“Usually my job is to help the team and Primož and so this is a really nice way of them to say thank you for all those years of helping,” he said.
Pre-stage fears of mid-race storms proved unfounded in the Vuelta’s big start Friday.
Afternoon rain left early starters some damp roads and some small puddles to negotiate in a race that initially needed to balance speed and safety in a course that packed a tight technical opening and wide fast final.
The roads dried as the stage went on and could have contributed to ever increasing times through the early-evening race.
Groupama-FDJ was an early starter and set the first serious benchmark. The French formation flew to a time of 25:18, at an average speed of 55.225kph.
BikeExchange Jayco was the first GC candidate on the course as damp tarmac began to dry out.
Yates was well poised with Kelland O’Brien, Michael Hepburn, Luke Durbridge, and reigning US time trial champion Lawson Craddock in his engine room.
The Aussie crew delivered by bringing their Brit leader to the line with what was then the fastest time.
Bora-Hansgrohe started soon after BikeExchange and tore through the circuit for Jai Hindley and Sergio Higuita. Bora couldn’t quite match BikeExchange with their mark that proved fastest until deep into the stage.
UAE Emirates carried a lot of expectation with team captain João Almeida and Spanish sensation Juan Ayuso. The Emirati team started midway through the order and pushed close to setting the best time at the intermediate time check. They held pace through the back half to come home with 5th by the end of the stage.
Ineos Grenadiers rolled down the ramp with four grand tour rookies in its eight. The youthful crew riding for Carapaz came hot out the blocks with a wild ride that set the fastest time at the intermediate check.
The team packed big engines like Dylan van Baarle, Ethan Hayter, Tao Geoghegan-Hart, and Luke Plapp, and took a nine second lead at the midpoint and went even better at the final to surge past BikeExchange’s time. They rode the course in 24.53, an average speed of 56.153kph.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl followed soon behind the Brits and squeaked faster their benchmark time early in the circuit.
Evenepoel sprinted for the finish line at the front of his squad and opened a tiny gap as they finished only a split-second slower than Ineos Grenadiers. Their mark of 24:54 eventually left them with third, bumping BikeExchange into fourth.
Defending champion Roglič and his Jumbo-Visma teammates were last to start as the early evening light began to dim. The Dutch team came stacked with TT talent in its Olympic time trial champion and team leader as well as Rohan Dennis and Edoardo Affini.
Ineos Grendiers’ time looked un-toppable but Jumbo-Visma went about dismantling it.
The Dutch crew was 17 seconds faster at the intermediate and held the pace to finish 13 seconds faster than Carapaz and Co. at the finish. Gesink gets the race’s first red jersey based on his position when Jumbo-Visma crossed the line.
The Vuelta will hit the open road with a 175km sprinter stage into Utrecht on Saturday.
Results will be available once stage has completed.