Janez Brajkovic took an early lead of the Vuelta a Espana after his Astana squad produced a superb team time trial to win stage one in Galicia.
The Kazakh squad stopped the clock on a flat but technical 27.4km course in 29 minutes 59 seconds, beating Radioshack-Leopard into second by 10 seconds and Omega Pharma – Quick-Step into third by 16 seconds.
Slovenian Brajkovic was their first man over the finish line and will now wear the race leader’s red jersey in tomorrow’s second stage.
The result was the ideal outcome for Vincenzo Nibali, who gained significant time on all of his rivals for overall victory, with Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar finishing 29 seconds behind and Joaquim Rodriguez’s Katusha 59 seconds back.
NetApp-Endura were the first squad off the start ramp in Vilanova de Arousa and posted an early fastest time of 30min 34sec, but despite that being good enough to see off the challenge of BMC and Orica-GreenEDGE, Omega Pharma – Quick-Step soon deposed them.
Martin and Cancellara thwarted
Driven on by world time trial champion Tony Martin, the Belgian team were fastest at both splits and even though they shed four of their nine riders, the remaining five dug deep to move them to the head of the standings in 30min 15sec.
That mark stood for an hour, but Radioshack-Leopard then produced a stunning display to go six seconds faster thanks to a powerful final sector inspired by four-time world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.
It looked like it would be good enough to put the Swiss maestro into the red jersey, but Astana, who were the last team to start, went fastest by eight seconds at the second split, after 20km, and consolidated their advantage with a strong run into the finish in Sanxenxo.
Brajkovic was allowed to lead the team over the line, handing the Slovenian a welcome moment in the spotlight seven weeks after he was forced to abandon the Tour de France following a heavy crash.
Team Sky finished 22 seconds down in fourth to keep Sergio Henao well placed in the general classification, but Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Ivan Basso (Cannondale) Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r-La Mondiale) all sustained heavy losses of more than a minute.
Stage 1 Results:
- Astana(Kazakhstan) 29:59″
- Radioshack(Luxembourg) +10″
- Omega Pharma – Quick-Step(Belgium) +16″
- Team Sky(Britain) +22″
- Movistar(Spain) +29″
- Saxo – Tinkoff(Denmark) +32″
- NetApp(Germany) +35″
- BMC Racing(United States) +36″
- Orica(Australia) +45″
- Belkin(Netherlands) +49″
General Classification After Stage 1:
- Janez Brajkovic (Slovenia / Astana) 29:59″
- Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Astana) ST
- Paolo Tiralongo (Italy / Astana)
- Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark / Astana)
- Andriy Grivko (Ukraine / Astana)
- Tanel Kangert (Estonia / Astana)
- Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland / Radioshack) +10″
- Haimar Zubeldia (Spain / Radioshack)
- Markel Irizar (Spain / Radioshack)
- Robert Kiserlovski (Croatia / Radioshack)