MADRID (Reuters) – Rohan Dennis took the leader’s red jersey on day one of the Vuelta a España, winning the time trial in the eight-kilometre opening stage of the third grand tour of the year.
The Australian national time-trial champion, who also held the leader’s jersey for four stages at the Giro d’Italia earlier this year, clocked up a time of 9:39 on the short, technical course under the punishing late afternoon sun in southern Spain.
Michal Kwiatkowski, leading Team Sky for this race, finished second, six seconds down.
“Kwiatkowski put on a lot of pressure,” BMC’s Dennis said. “I was hoping his time would be a little slower so there’d be less stress coming into it.
“I just put everything out there and hoped for the win. I knew that basically the race finished on top of the hill and you couldn’t take any more time out from there. I just thought, go all in to the top.”
The Australian added: “I was just thinking about trying to get an individual stage win at the Vuelta. That was the first goal, especially after what I did at the Giro.”
Kwiatkowski’s performance bodes well at this early stage for his general-classification hopes, taking out time on rivals Ion Izagirre, who finished 22 seconds down on Dennis, and Colombian Nairo Quintana, who was 30 seconds back.
Dennis’s team mate and compatriot, Richie Porte, who has been tipped for overall victory in the absence of a number of major riders, looked to be feeling the effects of an illness he has been carrying in the lead-up to the race, ending 51 seconds behind.
Sunday’s stage two — 163.5 kilometres from Marbella to Caminito del Rey — starts and finishes with a climb and is the first of nine summit finishes in this year’s race.
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli,; Editing by Neville Dalton)