Who thought this team time trial was a good idea?

It hasn’t been the best way to start a Grand Tour.

This year’s Vuelta a España has been highly anticipated, to say the least. There’s a fascinating route, packed with summit finishes from the very first week, and an intriguing long time trial that means the race is more than just a climbing competition. Then there’s the stellar line-up, featuring the top four riders from this year’s Tour de France – and many fans cherish memories of last year’s race, when the mountain battles between Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) gave us some of 2014’s best head-to-head racing.

Since then, unfortunately, it has started to go wrong, thanks to an almighty mess of a opening stage. The 7.4km team time trial that opens the race has been widely criticised, to the extent that it has now been removed from the general classification altogether. The results will still stand for the overall team competition, but not for individual riders.

Cycling Weekly is here at Puerto Banús ready for the race start, and we thought we’d take a good look at the course that’ll lead riders along the coast line to Marbella.

Without wanting to spoil the conclusion… we can’t see how anyone ever thought this would be a good idea.

Is this a classic Costa Del Sol holiday or a Grand Tour? For the first time ever, it’s hard to tell the difference (Catchpole)

Riders start almost out in the ocean on a seawall that protects a local habour from incoming waves.  It is fairly narrow and technical, but it isn’t long before the route approaches the first plastic tiled section, after around 1.5km. This has been laid specifically for the race, as the course runs along a sandy beach.

From randomly assorted tiles, over a sharp bump, and on to rubber square tiles (see a close up below), we're not sure how a full TTT line up will stay wheel to wheel throughout this whole stage

From randomly assorted pathway flooring, over a sharp bump, and on to rubber square tiles (see a close up below), we’re not sure how a full TTT line up will stay wheel-to-wheel throughout this whole stage (Catchpole)

This is then followed by a sand track which, to be fair, has been swept well (although the sand is built up on either side at the edges of the path), straight onto a pedestrian wooden promenade. It’s a lot to take in first two kilometres.

The majority of the course is certainly rideable, but full tilt (30mph plus) with nine riders on time trial bikes, we can’t help but think this mixture of technical terrain and narrow widths can only end up causing havoc.

"What a lovely view", said no bike rider ever, at 30mph, an inch behind the wheel of a potential Grand Tour winner they really wouldn't like to be responsible for knocking off

“What a lovely view”, said no bike rider ever, at 30mph, an inch behind the wheel of a potential Grand Tour winner they really wouldn’t like to be responsible for knocking off (Catchpole)

Spending time with Spanish UCI Continental team Caja Rural-Seguros RGA Al earlier in the week, riders and staff weren’t even sure if the first stage was confirmed to be a team or individual time trial. This just hasn’t been the best way to kick off one of the year’s showcase bike races.

4Z8A4371

Tell us, which of the following surfaces would you least like to ride a time trial bike over? This brick/concrete combination…

4Z8A4366

… elegant marble, ceramic, and stone tiles…

4Z8A4354

… rubber tiles, which aren’t as flat as you’d hope…

4Z8A4337

…dusty sand tracks…

4Z8A4326

…or, wooden decking. We’d rather enjoy any of them in flip flops. 23mm tubular tyres though? We’re not so sure. We’ll find out on Saturday if all of this fuss was for good reason (Catchpole)

Everyone wants to see top riders challenged, and bike handling is an important part of being a pro. But the team time trial is a particular discipline — and if you’re into watching professionals wrestle with sandtraps, you’re probably better off tuning into the golf.

  • Roger

    You are truly pathetic. Where is your proof?

  • RobTM

    You crossed a line in your previous post, don’t expect ppl to waste their time discussing things with you, when you act like that.

  • David Sundheim

    I have admitted that I have maybe been out of line and wrong in my insinuations, you apparently think Sky infallible and yet I look silly? And you act like Danielson not being a top talent matters… 1) its his familiarity with such scandal that make this shocking, not his talent level. And 2) do you believe we have reached that point where top end talent doesn’t cheat? Weather because of what they stand to lose or higher morals? That to me is insanity! People at all levels, even people we like, people we idolize can cheat and lie to us all! Not one name would surprise me if we found out an athlete in any sport was cheating! Not ONE!

  • RobTM

    These strawmen arguments don’t hang together, theyt just look silly so won’t get an answer

  • David Sundheim

    If you’re not David Brailsford, you are either married to him, or somehow otherwise related to him or a member of team Sky. No sane person. Would ever be so blindly supportive otherwise. Maybe I was wrong to make a specific accusation against any one team. Do you really believe everything your favorite team in any sport says is true?

  • David Sundheim

    Is this David Brailsford?

  • RobTM

    Lance had good reason to believe he’d get away with it. The UCI were lax with medical exemptions and EPO was rife in peleton. No Bio-passport or testing of old blood samples and so on. Danielson wasn’t a top talent.

    Sky & Brailsford are a team, they replace & repurpose riders, and are good at targetting & training for particular events. BMC & Etix win lots to with many riders, but different events. Let’s look at Oleg Tinkov and his plans for Contador in TdF, could Contador really afford to give Froome even 1% edge due to fatigue?
    Froome & Sky actually have been open, the Troussaire stage had power data published with Kerrison presenting, after the ambush on French TV. Froome also naively suggests releasing more data especially to ADA. But NOTHING can prove a rider clean, there’s no perfect tests and there will always be some caught like Danielson. That doesn’t make it right to insinuate doping, when you see people you don’t support doing well, without some evidence, good performances are NOT.
    After all, Gatlin would have won the 100m today if drug use was an insurmountable factor, or is your conclusion that Bolt’s a doper to, despite all his clean tests?

  • David Sundheim

    I believe most if not all of them ARE cheating… Just some are better at it sadly. Having everything to lose means NOTHING! Lance ArmstrongArmstrong had everything to lose as did many others, also Lance did not invent cheating and it didnt just go away when he did either. Look at what recently happened to Danielson who once testified agsinst Lance. Countless nations, teams, olympians and athletes have had everything to lose, and yet year after, year after, after year, after year, after year, after year, after year,… Stop me when I get back to David V Goliath, after year, after year, after year… They continue to try and find new ways to gain an advantage over their fellow competitors. So do you believe the whole peloton has been cleaned up then? If so, whatever your address is, that is where the most optimistic man in the world lives. I know I am a bit of a cynic, but believe me, no one would be happier to be proved wrong about team Sky than myself. I think if they really want to be a part of the Anti-doping culture, stop just saying all the right things, and lead by example. Be more transparent. Release data of riders. Tell the public which TUEs were requested.

  • RobTM

    Motors have been checked for.. and never (yet) found.
    Froome’s won well in past in heat on Ventoux for example, him dropping Quintana is not weird. That basically leaves Thomas, who performed much better than you expect and is a versatile Track Pursuit/Classics/Super Domestique not really a specialist. Froome’s missed 2 tests in 6 years, the rules permit missing 12 in that time, because door bells fail, plans change etc. Wiggins came 4th (3rd with LA DQ’d) with Garmin in 2009, Froome had Bilharzia and came good in Vuelta in 2011, and Thomas is around peak age-wise yet is beaten by several 24yr olds after Alps, but you think drugs, drugs!!
    The hydration is kind of area, they may have a slight edge through sports science, that other teams have missed. Anyway other teams are keen to sign Sky riders, they’re not shunned as “dopers”, eg) Rogers with Tinkov-Saxo who don’t have an incentive to keep quiet about wrong doing

  • RobTM

    Furthermore you may not understand quite, how much Team Sky & Brailsford have to lose, if team were implicated in doping, they’d be destroyed, disgraced and in UK friendless in media. You’re suggesting a massive conspiracy, that runs totally counter to the culture which is anti-doping. Times have changed from Armstrong era, an ex-Sky rider isn’t going to keep quiet in current climate if there was untoward practice to report. There’s no bags of syringes, positive steroid tests explained by Dr’s treatment for a sore. No, they film altitude training camps and sports scientists, nutritionists and pyschologists; people who have proven experience of athletes peaking for events like the Olympics.
    Someone at any one time, tends to be the best, people didn’t rush to explain Quintana on Alp D’Huez as “doping”. It’s a mistake to assume good performances are result of cheating, not hard work

  • David Sundheim

    Geraint Thomas is a classics specialist. I expect great rides from him once in a while, but I can’t accept that Quintana, Contador, Nibali, Van Garderen, Pinot, Bardet, Barguil, Valverde, and Rodriguez all had a bad day atat the same time. Do you really believe Sky was the only team that knew how to hydrate that day? And as far as doping concerns I personally think it’s Motors. Or some drug they don’t know about yet or have a test for. 3 tours in four years with Two different riders, domestiques who find out they have GC potential and at almost 30 years of age of they discover this about themselves. Not to mention the T.U.E. requests, and missed drug tests by Froome… I just raise can’t make sense of it all. But whether or not something makes sense to me, has no bearing on if it’s the truth or not. My fondest wish is that eventually all races are won on the road and not in the lab. Second only to that is that GC men start riding Roubaix again. But I think the latter is even more unlikely than the former. Hinault was probably the last Roubaix-TdF winner we will ever see.

  • RobTM

    Froome & Thomas in Pyrenees about 1 minute, I think you mean on a hot day. Gallopin performed well, not a noted climber but he was not far off Froome. Contador, Quintana, Valverde & NIbali were having poor days and lost time, perhaps they got hydration wrong. You should remember Thomas finished the TdF before with a pelvis fracture and has been a classics winner, so you should expect some great rides from him. He suffered later in the Alps and lost a lot of time, NOT consistent with your doping suspicions, where he’d recover better and become relatively stronger as the race wore on

  • David Sundheim

    And if it was Just Chris Froome I could maybe accept team Sky a bit more. If he was just asome genetic freak or a once in a generation rider that would be believablebelievable, but I can’t see how the whole team was Minutes (not seconds, Minutes!) better than all the race favorites and dark horses on the same hill in one day. It’s seems unlikely that Porte and Geraint freaking Thomas all of a sudden are able to drop the rest at their peak fitness of the year. It’s the Thomas jumping up out of nowhere and being one of the world’s elite climbers, seemingly overnight that makes Team Sky hard for me to accept. It seems way to weird. However the Documentary on Chris Froome showed him to be very likable, and I am glad the Team Car and support are friendly.

  • RobTM

    I’m glad you read that article to. For me the pictures I found from that stage at another site, leave no doubt that neutralising the stage was a justified decision, mentions ruts forming for example.
    Poor ole Sky, so much work done for so few wins, with so many other teams free-loading. It has crossed my mind that Froome may have stayed back today rather than battle Quintana when he attacked, to avoid an early GC jersey and let other teams control the breaks and enjoy all the press attention. Praps, letting Roche go with the break is sign of greater vareity and depth to Sky’s tactics.
    If you actually get to see some races, the Sky car is one of the friendlier ones, in Jan the DS waved back and smiled every race day to supporters, not quite the Death Star image you see in the media.

  • Neilo

    Nice one. 🙂

  • David Sundheim

    I just don’t like team Sky, tactically they are brilliant, but terrible to watch the train of Skybots. I also believe they are the Dirtiest team in the peloton, but that is another topic for another time. I like your 9/10 years math. It makes sense that way. But you only partially quoted Cancellara and Van Garderen. Cancellara said the “course wasnt that bad in the Morning” and TJ said he felt “good and confident on the bike”

  • RobTM

    Let’s presume there’s a 10% increased chance of 1 incident due to the mixed surfaces, sand, rubber tiles, boards, grit in the TTT. That will mean 9 years out of 10, there won’t be a problem. Those who want a true run race, a proper GC plus TTT competition still don’t find that acceptable.
    Note, it’s not just Team Sky ppl commenting, but ppl like Nibali (known for his bike handling skills) and Cancellera, even one of the winners TJ, said “definitely a crazy course”.
    Your persistent slagging of Sky is unjustified.

  • David Sundheim

    You mean the outcome I predicted days ago? That it’s possible to ride this course fast and go hard without team pile up after team pile up? Forgive me ,honestly I don’t want to be combative, I just wanted to see a real race. Not another Sky victory processional. I actually was hoping for the battle to begin day one on an unconventional course. I don’t like that one of the only teams to completely mail it in was the team it benefitted the most, team Sky, the same team spearheading the charge of complaints about the conditions, I am a huge fan of all around riders, guys who can handle a bike, and if losing a minute on day one forces you to have to be aggressive in hopes of gaining that time back in the next 20 days, well and good, the we have a proper race. I glad no one got hurt. But you know as well as I do unfavorable and lottery like conditions are around every corner in racing. It was not like they asked the riders to do something stupidly dangerous like a TTT down the Angliru. It was blown out of proportion is all I am saying. And yes you probably know more about racing than I ever will. Most of my “races” are Gravel grinder Centuries on 100mi of unpaved roads… So yeah I am probably a little biased. I respect you an your opinions, I just disagree with them. But I do agree that we all love cycling and want to see an exciting and safe Vuelta for the ages.

  • RobTM

    Your fallacy is called “Outcome Bias” average speed of 32mph, is EXACTLY the point most were making, who want fair racing and the technical delegates agreed or they would not have GC neutralised the course, which reduced the risks. BIke racing is dangerous enough on normal courses

  • TrevorHoldsworth

    I wouldn’t know where to start.

  • David Sundheim

    Hey, did you notice some of the teams actually raced today? (Not team Sky). And not one of them died, can you believe it? In fact the top 12 teams still all averaged over 32mph… But wait, how is that possible I thought it was certain tragedy if they tried to go fast on such a terrible course. Yet they did go fast… Hmmm? And they all still lived. Please explain racing to me again.

  • RobTM

    Well you can ride through the Tramuntana to, it just gets boring crossing the same passes, and always going around Palma as it limits your route options. Going through is out most days/times due to congestion. Kevino, the speed limit is 15km/h, I’m sure someone has ridden faster than that though. The main thing is to avoid “beautiful days there”, where pedestrians, skate boards and roller bladers become major and frequent hazards, red marked cycle track acts like a magnet

  • RobTM

    Strade Bianche, you’re riding a distance race and not in TTT formation in a 7.4km sprint, but far slower speed.
    The course would be perfectly safe for my other half on her hybrid.. seeing her ride would not make sporting TV. The Vuelta prologue deserved better

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Why go that far to ride at 15 km?? Might as well stay at home!

    I ride everyday and the road surface changes all the time, farm paths, rough Tarmac , potholes etc that’s the fun. Might as well in future hold time trials round tracks so riders have a smooth surface!

  • RobTM

    That it’s ONLY 7.4km makes it worse, to race it you’re going flat out in close formation and they’ve often had crashes in TTT on good road. Some teams may well ride very conservative now it doesn’t count for GC, so as a race course it’s compromised

  • RobTM

    It’s the need to ride in close team formation with the surface changes that makes for a danger of a lottery. It’s just like the sort of track I ride sometimes along the bay at Palma di Mallorca, which has a 15km/h speed limit!

  • Stevie

    Riders from other teams also complained. I remember seeing a post on cw which highlighted these (check the feed, Riders from movistar also complained). Also relating to pave and strade bianche the cyclist who excell at these events usually train specifically for them all year around and they offer a greater risk to reward than a 7k TTT. A gc competition is much more exciting to watch on a mountain than on a beach.

  • KarlRoche

    Almost as rough as Paris Roubaix. Get a grip.. starting to sound like football players.

  • 65juicer

    It wouldn’t be a surprise at all.
    I just hope that if they do, they get to land in soft sand.

  • 65juicer

    It’s certainly something different !
    Approached with knobbly tyres, I would say.
    How are you supposed to ride this at speed on an aero bike with 23mm smooths !?
    It’s just a joke.

  • J1

    People are going down.

  • Jason Rogerson

    I’m not saying I want anyone to crash out on the first stage or anything, but this stage is something different, it just needs to be approached differently to typical team time trials, and I as a cycling fan am intrigued as to how the teams will be dealing with this new terrain, and now that we know it’s not going to go towards GC, we’re not going to get the competitiveness we love to see, from half the field there’s just going to be half hearted efforts

  • SaganFan

    Wow, what a stinker. Looks like something my boys and the kids next door “cobbled” together in the field behind our house. It’s one thing for a classic course to exhibit a somewhat rustic nature but this TTT course looks a wee bit too amateurish for a grand tour. Might be a lark to ride this course on a big fatty-tire weekender but on racers at high speed? No way. Do we want a contender going home on day 1 after that decking grabs a wheel? Imagine a new F1 course looking this silly.

  • David Sundheim

    True the organizers could have done better. But for the teams to act like this is a surprise is a joke! And I firmly believe had Froome and Roche not started complaining on twitter, the race would have have continues just the same… Instead of being changed the DAY before just to please the big names of the sport. If they can handle cobbles and Strade Bianchi, this would have been safe enough, sure they could lose out on time, but its not near the deathtrap, they’re making it out to be.

  • Hassan Sharrif

    you are so bad at whinging and worse at the knowledge of road racing,the organizers fucked up they have all of spain to choose a good section of road and they chose that for an opening stage which actually has a big importance in shaping the overall GC and all you could take away from that was SKY and how they said this wasnt a safe venue for the riders.

  • David Sundheim

    Boo hoo Team Sky! It’s called bike handling, 7.4km of any surface is nothing whine about. But you got your way, to prove one thing, tantrums can get the superstars of the sport their way.