The Vuelta a España began Saturday evening on the seaside Marbella, but only unofficially after teams complained of the sand covered paths making up the 7.4-kilometre course leading to organisers neutralising the stage.
BMC Racing won by one second over Tinkoff-Saxo and Orica-GreenEDGE, and put its rider Peter Velits in the red leader’s jersey.
The jersey was symbolic, however, as only the team classification was measured. The individual one for the overall race still sits at zero after the first stage.
On Friday, organiser Unipublic and race jury decided to neutralise the individual race after teams previewed the course on Thursday.
“They did the right thing to neutralise the race,” Team Sky’s Chris Froome said.
“For us, it was about going through the stage and staying safe. It’s a shame that we lost out on a day of exciting racing today.”
“I was looking forward to it, it’s just a shame really,” Geraint Thomas added. “It’s all about saying safe. It wasn’t the usual TTT even if we did press on the pedals.”
Sky placed 20th overall at 1-09 minutes back. The time does not matter for Froome, who will begin his overall race with the small mountain finish on Sunday.
“It must have been fun to watch, but it’s not a great idea to do a team time trial on sand,” 2010 Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) explained.
“This was really a beachside path, with many risks. Even with the sand cleared in some parts, it was very risky and dangerous. We didn’t want to take any risks.
“I don’t know what the organisers were thinking, they for sure needed to think about it beforehand. The UCI should be on top of it, to control if a stage is race-able or not.”
Time trial specialist Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) said that it should not be compared to the white gravel roads of the one-day Strade Bianche race, which he has won, but it had its dangers all the same.
“This could be better organised so that we’d have less complaining and less of these stories,” Cancellara added. “The road was better in the morning, after all the riders and cars went through, like in a ski run, you get more [ruts].”
Tejay van Garderen came out on top of his classification rivals. Even if he did not gain time for the individual classification, he said that he took a mental boost from BMC Racing’s win.
“There was a bit of sand, a bit of rubber, a bit of on the pier… It was definitely a crazy course, not one I would have wanted to ride, but when we are world champions, we have to do the stripes proud. We felt obligated to give it ago,” he said.
“There were certainly some corners were we were on the limit. We all felt safe and we were all confident on the bike.”
Even with the race start on Saturday in Marbella, the individual race truly gets rolling on Sunday with the Caminito del Rey summit finish.