ARRATE, Spain (Reuters) - Defending Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic won the opening stage of this year’s delayed edition, a 173-km trek from Irun as the race got off to an explosive start on Tuesday.
The Slovenian, who lost the Tour de France yellow jersey on the last competitive stage last month, powered away from a small group of top contenders with one km to go in the Alto de Arrate.
“The team showed that we are very, very strong. They did a perfect job throughout the stage,” said Roglic. “It’s nice that I can reward them for that with this stage win. On the final climb we went full gas.”
Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz took second place one second behind as his Ineos-Grenadiers team mate and Britain’s four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome was dropped before the final ascent, a 5.3km effort at an average gradient of 7.7%, just like France’s Thibaut Pinot.
Pinot ended up 9:56 behind Roglic, with Froome 11:12 off the pace.
“I got a but caught out coming into the penultimate climb and started (the last climb) pretty far back, being stuck behind a crash there,” said Froome, appearing in his first grand tour in two years.
“I’m just going to take the race day-by-day and keep trying to do as much as I can for the team. Sensations are good. I still miss a little bit of that top hand from not having raced much... and I hope to keep building up throughout the race.”
Ireland’s Dan Martin was third, also one second off the pace after Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma team mate American Sepp Kuss blew the peloton apart in the last climb with a brutal acceleration.
The Vuelta’s flat start in the Netherlands was scrapped as the race was rescheduled from Aug. 14-Sept. 6 amid the COVID-19 crisis and there was no stand-off in Tuesday’s first stage.
Former Giro champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands started as Jumbo-Visma’s co-leader but he was unable to follow when Kuss made his move and crossed the line 51 seconds behind Roglic.
Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris
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