It’s been a weird year. We all know that. But overlapping Grand Tours? A Giro and a Vuelta, in October. Madness!
So why not kick it off with one of those mucky, windswept Basque Country days. A profile of dark, steep climbs, falling leaves blowing hither and thither across the Tarmac, and a frankly insane pace at the front of the race.
Could it be that the riders have been told: “look, lads, what with Covid ‘n’ all that…this Vuelta will last about three days, four at best”
Teams riding like an early race-leading Red Jersey might not be an altogether bad idea. Ineos, on the penultimate climb, DRILLING it! Chris Froome, their leader-not-leader, lolling and hanging off the back of a still seventy-strong peloton. His team not attacking him, as such, but accepting the collateral damage. Richard Carapaz the confirmed leader a mere two-thirds into the opening stage.
Thibaut Pinot, our French hero, another huge victim.Embed from Getty Images
Onto the final climb, the Alto de Arrete – five kilometres of ramps and sheer drops – and Ineos are still going on the front. And then, BANG! Sepp Kuss, the American – the Man With Three Lungs – nails it. Accelerating away in a move to drop Tom Dumoulin, Alejandro Valverde, and a whole cadre of fine bike riders.
This breathless stage sharpened to a fine point. Into the closing kilometres and we are down to eight for a sleeves-rolled-up GC battle on day one.
There’s Dan Martin looking sprightly (in that downtrodden, nodding style); Primoz Roglic, hovering, like a man with an iron strong teammate (Kuss) and a simmering memory of Tour de France disaster; Richard Carapaz, tiny and menacing; and Hugh Carthy: tall, pink, northern, and unable to resist any longer.Embed from Getty Images
Bosh! Carthy attacks. Two kilometres to go. The summit crested and a fast, winding finish ahead. The chasers chase, the TV camera bike on their tail, and we all, as one, remember we can breathe if we want to.
And then goes Roglic.
And that’s that.
Screaming down the road like a rat up a drainpipe to win. A great opening stage of a Grand Tour. A modern classic.