“Sh*t happens! There are twenty stages left,” said Team Sky’s Directeur Sportif Marcus Ljungvist after their 20th placing in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana opening stage team time trial.
Sky were beset by communication and organisation problems over the stage on a course that many riders felt was fundamentally ill-suited to a team time trial.
“The uphills and the downhills and the corners,” was what Thomas Löfkvist said to Cycling Weekly when asked where it went wrong. “A lot went wrong. There was big disorganisation. There were misunderstandings.”
“It didn’t go as well as expected,” said Dario Cioni. “It’s not so easy on these courses. It’s hard to find a balance for the team. The course could have been better.”
The course played a part in Sky’s disappointing result, and a number of riders across a variety of teams expressed dissatisfaction with its design.
Most contentious was a series of tight 90 and near-180 degree turns on normally-pedestrianised streets in the town centre of Benidorm, which caused problems for the teams usually dominant in such events – Sky, Garmin-Cervélo and HTC-Highroad.
With an early crash taking out Kurt-Asle Arvesen and splitting the team, the complex cornering and loud crowds served to exacerbate the riders’ confusion about the situation, team Director Sportif Steven de Jongh later said on the Team Sky website.
The pedestrianised streets have been closed to riders all week and were only opened at three o’clock today. The teams grabbed practice slots before the start at five o’clock but, with almost all of them on the course at the same time, preparations were less than perfect.
“The course was shut until three o’clock and then every team wanted to get on it. You didn’t have time to do a proper dress rehearsal. It makes it a lot harder,” said Ian Stannard (Team Sky)
“It’s just such a hard course to be so organised on – it’s not like a four-corner course,” he continued. “There are so many corners and such tight ones. There were quite a few potholes, speedhumps, bumpy corners. It’s more of an individual time trial course than a team one.”
The leader’s jersey holder after the stage Jakob Fuglslang (Leopard-Trek) described the twistier part of the circuit as “unnecessary”, with Michele Albasini (HTC-Highroad) also expressing the same sentiment.
Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) also expressed reservations about the course at the team presentation on Friday.
Cioni recovery plus for Sky
Wiggins had earlier expressed worries that Sky would be effectively a man down for the stage – Dario Cioni was suffering from stomach problems yesterday, but Cioni stayed with the team for the stage and is optimistic about the outlook – “I’ve got passed the worst bit and hopefully I can get better and better now. I survived today so that’s one day done.”
Garmin-Cervelo, winners of the 2011 Tour de France TTT stage, tackle the course on their way to a ninth-placed finish
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Vuelta a Espana 2011
: Stage reports
Vuelta a Espana 2011: Photo galleries
By Graham Watson
Stage one photo gallery
Vuelta a Espana 2011: TV guide