Garmin-Cervelo and Team Sky will start as favourites for Saturday’s opening stage of the Vuelta, a testing 13.5-kilometre team time trial around Benidorm.



It’s no flat, drag-strip of a TTT course. The opener starts with a steep four-kilometre climb before a 180-degree turn and a fast, straight descent back into the popular tourist town.



The riders pass the beach, and there is another 180-degree corner and several tight turns through the Old Town before looping round to the finish.



“I think you have to have everything. There’s a climb, a fast descent, technical part and the last five kilometres are when you need punchy riders and rouleurs to go full gas,” Garmin-Cervelo directeur sportif and Vuelta veteran Bingen Fernandez said.



Wiggins hopes for steady start


Team Sky captain Bradley Wiggins is looking to get off to a solid start. “It’s a case of looking to minimise our losses: we might win it, we might be second or third, but we could also get it horribly wrong and end up losing 30 seconds and start on the back foot,” he told CW this morning.



“Teams are going to blow to bits on that first climb, guys that want to show everyone how strong they are. There’s no egos in our team: it’s a case of controlling it in a flat out way, if that makes sense. It’s a bit like a team pursuit, you’re riding such a fine line from blowing to pieces.”

Wiggins reckoned that he is in similar shape to his pre-Tour de France
form. “I feel more refreshed, more ready to race than I did at the Tour,” he said.

“Give or take 10 watts, I’m pretty much in the same boat. I haven’t been in a peloton since the [Tour] crash, I don’t know how I’ll be coming into sprint finishes – I’ll try and just stay on the front.”



Team Sky may also be affected in the opening days by illness to Dario Cioni, who is set to start the race under the weather. “We’re one man down already, Dario had the shits all night. I don’t know how he’s going to be,” Wiggins said.



If not directly from victory in tomorrow’s TTT, there’s a distinct possibility that Wiggins could take the leader’s jersey after the first mountain stage to Sierra Nevada on Tuesday.



“If we can get as close as possible, it’s a fantastic climb for me, then we’re all on the right foot.”



Some like it hot

The Team Sky leader has spent several weeks preparing in a heat chamber to acclimatise to the stifling heat of the Spanish summer.



Garmin directeur sportif Fernandez advised that the majority of the peloton would be suffering in the 30-degree temperature in the TTT.



“The problem is that most of the riders, 90 per-cent, are coming from northern Europe where the weather hasn’t been super,” he said. “On that long climb, their engines are going to go ‘bang’.”



Related links

Wiggins: “I’m in a great position going into the Vuelta”

Cycling Weekly’s Vuelta 2011 coverage index