Following complaints about the nature of the 7.4km team time trial course, which includes a section of sand, the organiser has semi-neutralised the stage

Saturday’s opening team time trial of the Vuelta a España will count only for teams and not for the individual classification, the organiser has announced.

The move was made after riders complained of sand section in the 7.4-kilometre first stage of the Spanish Grand Tour ending in Marbella.

Unipublic released a statement this morning, according to Spanish website Biciciclismo. It came 24 hours after cyclists reacted following a reconnaissance of the course, which included over half, 4.2 kilometres, on dirt or sand.

Race director Javier Guillén held a meeting yesterday with representatives from the UCI and the 198 cyclists starting the race. Today, he and Unipublic made the change.

The statement read, “Having heard the concerns of teams and riders, and after an inspection of the course, [the race jury decided that] the stage will take place on the planned route, [but] the recorded times will be counted for the team classification and not for the individual general classification.”

If Team Sky with Chris Froome wins the time trial with one minute over rival team Movistar with Nairo Quintana, for example, the gain would only be useful in the final team’s classification awarded in Madrid on September 13. The first rider from the winning team should take the race leader’s red jersey.

The statement, according to Biciciclismo, read:

The Technical Jury, having received the concerns of teams and riders and after an inspection of the course with the technical director of the race, and after obtaining the agreement of the UCI decided:

1. The stage will be held on the planned route.

2. The recorded time will be counted for the team classification and not for the individual general classification.

3. At the end of the stage, equipment [used] will be submitted to the protocol.

The individual classification will therefore remain blank until stage two from Alhaurín de la Torre to Caminito del Reyon Sunday. The differences made in Caminito del Reyon, will begin to count for the final overall.

Besides Froome and Quintana, the favourites list include 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) and Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha).