Vuelta a Espaņa - Leopard Trek take Vuelta TTT win

Sat, 20 Aug 17:55:00 2011

Leopard Trek won the opening team time trial in the Vuelta a Espana ahead of the Liquigas team of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali.

Vuelta a Espaņa - Leopard Trek take TTT win

Jakob Fuglsang led the Luxembourg-based team over the line of the 13.5-km TTT in Benidorm for a winning time of 16 minutes and 30 seconds.

Liquigas, who led Leopard Trek by one slender second at the intermediate check, finished four seconds off the pace to take second place, while the HTC-Highroad team of Britain's Mark Cavendish completed the podium, a further five seconds back.

The Euskaltel team of Spain's Igor Anton, one of the race favourites, posted the 12th best time at 28 seconds, while the Katusha team of the hotly-tipped Spaniard Joaquin Rodriguez finished a strong tenth, at 25 seconds.

Under hot sun on the Costa Blanca, the TTT started on a steep ramp on the beach at the popular tourist resort of Benidorm. Three riders slipped chains before the first bend, while a rather technical course also saw crashes to a handful of riders, including Saxo Bank's Nick Nuyens and BMC's Manuel Quinziato, who tumbled after his handlebars appeared to break from the frame of his bike.

But the big losers of the day were Britain's Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and the Geox-TMC veterans Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov.

Leopard Trek take Vuelta TTT win

Wiggins, hoping to save his season after crashing out of last month's Tour de France with a broken collarbone, is already 42 seconds down on the race summit after Sky only managed to set the 20th best time. Geox were another second off the pace, making it a poor return for the team in their first Grand Tour of the season.

However, it was a perfect start for a Leopard-Trek team marshalled by the veteran Swiss time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara - riding his third Grand Tour of the season. Riding in the rainbow stripes of world time trial champion, Cancellara said it was the "biggest surprise victory of my career" after his team did enough to hold off the challenge from Liquigas and the experienced HTC side, riding their final Grant Tour before folding at the end of the season.

Securing the first leader's jersey of his career, Fuglsang said his team's victory came as no surprise. "Our goal today was to do a good TTT and we knew we could win if we did the maximum," the 26-year-old said. "I went to the front with 200 metres to go and I expected to be passed but no one came."

Asked about his ambitions for this year's Vuelta, the Danish rider said: "I will go for the overall and see how far I can go. But I don't think I'll get any further up than I am today."

Fuglsang will wear the leader's red jersey going into Sunday's 174-km stage two from La Nucia to Playas de Orihuela, the finale of which should see the likes of Cavendish and Garmin-Cervelo's Tyler Farrar compete in a bunch sprint finish.

Felix Lowe / Eurosport

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