Vincenzo Nibali’s Astana Pro Team won the team time trial ahead of RadioShack-Leopard and Omega Pharma-Quick Step as the 2013 Vuelta a Espana began on Saturday.
Nibali, who is looking to add a second Vuelta victory to his Giro d’Italia win earlier this year, was given the perfect start as the Kazakh team came home 10 seconds ahead of RadioShack, with pre-stage favorite Omega Pharma in third a further six seconds behind.
“The team have been fantastic. It was a great time trial,” a delighted Nibali said afterward.
Omega set the early pace, but with time trial specialist Tony Martin having to slow down on various occasions for his teammates to catch up they did not set as quick a time as they would have hoped.
Fabian Cancellara’s RadioShack then moved briefly into the lead before Astana, who set off last of the 22 teams, produced an incredible ride in the final third of the 27.4km ride from Vilanova de Arousa into Sanxexo to take the victory.
Sky Pro Cycling could not follow up their podium finishes in the team time trial at the Giro and the Tour de France this year as, without Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins, they only managed fourth, 22 seconds back.
Former winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) is expected to be one of Nibali’s main competitors for the overall victory, but the Spaniard ended the first day 29 seconds behind the Italian after his team failed to repeat their victory in this stage last year.
However, he was not too disheartened with the time lost given that teammate Benat Intxausti’s stage was delayed by a puncture.
“We haven’t lost much time with respect to the favorites and what we lost was due to a puncture for Intxausti,” he said.
Joaquim Rodriguez (Team Katusha) was also off the pace as his Katusha Team came in 59 seconds off the time set by Astana.