Roglic takes early Vuelta lead in explosive opening stage

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.

FILE PHOTO: Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 20 - Lure to La Planche des Belles Filles - France - September 19, 2020. Team Jumbo-Visma rider Primoz Roglic of Slovenia, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, finishes. Pool via REUTERS/Christophe Ena

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