Liquigas Wins Vuelta Team Time Trial; Pozzato Takes Race Lead
Liquigas has drawn first blood at the Vuelta a Espana. The Italian squad won Stage 1, a seven-km team time trial in Granada, in 8:21. Euskaltel finished second at 0:08, and Caisse d'Epargne finished third at 0:09. Filippo Pozzato donned the yellow jersey for Liquigas.
Tinkoff set the early standard. The Russian squad, the second team to start, posted an 8:33. Milram came within 0:03 of Tinkoff, but Tinkoff remained in the lead until Quick Step, the sixth team to start, finished in 8:31.
Liquigas, the seventh team to start, posted the best intermediate time. Even when Quick Step took the lead, it was obvious that Liquigas would set a new standard. And so the Italian squad did. Its 8:21 would be the day's best time. The only question was where the teams with GC hopefuls would finish.
Astana was a good bet to win the team time trial. The team had ace time trialists Andreas Kloeden and Levi Leipheimer. They will support Giro d'Italia winner Alberto Contador. The team, however, had a subpar day. Astana finished eighth at 0:14, having shelled four of its nine riders along the way.
Lampre was not a good bet to win, but the Italian team has Damiano Cunego, who has GC aspirations in the Vuelta. Lampre finished 11th at 0:19. Caisse d'Epargne, which has Alejandro Valverde, shepherded its team captain into good position with an 8:30. CSC, which is a strong time trial squad and which has Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre, put itself in the hunt by finishing fifth at 0:11.
For teams that turned in disappointing performances, the shortness of the time trial was a saving grace. The event was too short to be decisive. As Alberto Contador said, "Everything has gone well because regarding to the other favorites, Sastre and Valverde, the differences are so small that we don't have to give them importance."
In the overall, Pozzato leads teammates Valerio Agnoli and Manuel Quinziato. Stage 2 will be a rolling, 167.3-km run from Granada to Jaen. It should end in a sprint finish. Who will win? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? Tom Boonen (Quick Step)? Erik Zabel (Milram)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!