Janez Brajkovic pulled on the first red jersey of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana after leading home the Astana team of Giro d’Italia winner, Vincenzo Nibali.
The Kazakh squad, whose Scicilian leader, winner of the Vuelta in 2010, is the pre-race favourite, finished some 10 seconds ahead of a Radioshack-Leopard team led home by four-time world time trial champion, Fabian Cancellara.
The Omega Pharma-QuickStep team led by Cancellara’s successor in the rainbow stripes, Tony Martin, finished third with a time 16 seconds slower than Astana, but six seconds quicker than Britain’s Team Sky, whose fourth place finish should provide a solid platform for team leader, Sergio Henao.
“This was my lucky day,” Brajkovic said, after leading his team to victory over a technical 27km course from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo on the beautiful Galician coast.
“From the moment I woke up to the moment we crossed the line, everything went right.
“It’s nice to wear the red jersey after so much bad luck this season, and I am especially proud of how strong the team is.
“We are here to try and wear this jersey on the final day in Madrid, and today is a good indication of our intent.”
Astana, whose heavyweight line up also includes Jakob Fuglsang, seventh overall at the Tour de France, 2012 Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner, Maxim Iglinksy, and Tanel Kangert, Niabli’s faithful lieutenant at the Giro, delivered an early statement of intent by arriving at the floating start house in a speed boat.
The men in blue and yellow were the last to roll down the glass start ramp and quickly got up to speed, posting the fastest time by some 10 seconds at the first check point, just 9.2km into the test.
A strong finish saw them displace Radioshack-Leopard at the top of the time sheet. Cancellara’s men had enjoyed a fleeting visit to the podium, after beating the time of long-term leaders, Omega Pharma-QuickStep.
NetApp-Endura, the German-Scottish squad registered in the UCI Pro Continental tier, set an impressive early benchmark of 30.34.06, and finished the day seventh, firing a warning to their rivals in the WorldTour that their wild card invitation to the Vuelta is not merely a case of making up the numbers. Their time was achieved with an average speed of more than 54kph.
Astana must now decide whether to defend the jersey so early in the race. Stage two will offer their rivals the terrain required to mount an effective challenge. The mountainous 177.7km route from Pontevedra ends at the summit of the first category Alto do Monte da Groba.
Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage one – result
1) Astana (KAZ) – 29.59
2) Radioshack-Leopard (LUX) +10″
3) Omega Pharma-QuickStep (BEL) +16″
4) Team Sky (GBR) +22″
5) Movistar (ESP) +29″
6) Saxo-Tinkoff (DEN) +32″
7) Netapp-Endura (GER) +35″
8) BMC Racing (USA) +36″
9) Orica-GreenEDGE (AUS) +45″
10) Belkin Pro Cycling (NED) +49″
1) Janez Brajkovic (SLO) – Astana – 29.59
2) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)- Astana – ST
3) Paolo Tiralongo (ITA) – Astana
4) Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) – Astana
5) Andriy Grivko (UKR) – Astana
6) Tanel Kangert (EST) – Astana
7) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Radioshack-Leopard +10″
8) Haimar Zubeldia (ESP) – Radioshack-Leopard – ST
9) Markel Irizar (ESP) – Radioshack-Leopard
10) Robert Kiserlovski (CRO) – Radioshack-Leopard