A delighted Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark donned the first leader’s red jersey of the Vuelta a Espana on Saturday after his Leopard Trek team pulled off a narrow victory in the opening team time trial.
The 26-year-old all-rounder and triple winner of the Tour of Denmark hit the front of his team’s line of riders with 200m to go to the finish to take his first lead in a major Tour.
Last year’s winner Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and his Liquigas team ran Leopard Trek the closest to finish four seconds slower on the highly technical, windswept 13.5km course. HTC-Highroad were third.
“I’m surprised to be leading, I hadn’t talked about who would be the first rider across the finish line and I was expecting someone to come past me after I hit the front, but my objective is the overall classification here and this is the perfect start. I don’t think I can get much higher than this,” Fuglsang said.
Fuglsang’s sports director at Leopard Trek, Lars Michaelsen, had previously been the only Dane to lead la Vuelta, holding the top spot for three days in 1997.
“We knew if we gave it 100 percent we could win, but it was a very difficult course,” Fuglsang said. “There was a really hard start with a tough climb and you had to be careful the team didn’t fall apart early on. We lost one rider [Italian Davide Vigano] at the top of the climb when he crashed.”
Nibali confirmed his status as a top contender with his team’s second place, while local favorite Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Eudiskadi put in a solid ride on unfavorable terrain to finish 12th.
Stage favorites Team Sky had a disappointing day, finishing third last after two riders’ bikes clipped wheels early on, causing Norwegian Kurt-Asle Arvesen to fall.
“On an uphill it was difficult for him to regain contact and his crash broke up things up for us badly, but at least [Bradley] Wiggins showed he’s in good shape and there are 20 stages left. We’ll be back,” Sky director Marcus Ljungkvist said.