DSM-Firmenich took an unexpected victory as the 78th Vuelta a España began with a rain-soaked team time trial around the streets of Barcelona. Torrential rain and thunder greeted the start of the three-week race, the season’s final Grand Tour, and the Dutch team’s riders put down an early time that could not be bettered.
DSM-Firmenich completed the 14.8km circuit that took in some of the city’s famous locations in 17min 30sec, with the Spanish team Movistar coming closest to dislodging them but fading late on to finish second in a virtually identical time. EF Education-Easypost were third, 6sec back.
DSM-Firmenich’s Lorenzo Milesi, the winner of the under-23 individual time trial at this month’s world championships, will be the first rider this year to wear the leader’s red jersey. The Dutch powerhouse team Jumbo-Visma – containing the race favourites, Jonas Vingegaard and Primoz Roglic – were only 11th quickest at 32sec off the pace.
The Soudal-Quick-Step team of the defending champion, Remco Evenepoel, were fourth quickest, at 6sec behind, meaning the Belgian will take a useful cushion into Sunday’s second stage.
The drenched roads meant the course was trickier than expected with a slew of crashes including for the Arkéa-Samsic team and Ineos Grenadiers who finished 20 seconds back.
Sunday’s stage will see battle really commence as the peloton is taken on a hilly 182km trek from Mataró before finishing at Barcelona’s Montjuïc.
Jumbo-Visma are attempting to become the first team to win all three Grand Tours in the same season after Slovenia’s Roglic claimed the Giro d’Italia and Vingegaard won the Tour de France for the second year in succession.