Defending champion Primoz Roglic wins opening Vuelta a España time trial

Primoz Roglic got off to the perfect start in his bid to claim the Vuelta a España for a third consecutive year by winning the individual time trial in Saturday’s opening stage in Burgos.

Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) arrived in Spain in top form after winning the gold medal in the Olympic time trial in Tokyo and set off last, aiming to topple the early frontrunner Alex Aranburu (Astana–PremierTech).

The reigning Vuelta champion finished the 7.1km course in 8:32, beating Aranburu by six seconds to take the red jersey and a healthy early lead in the general classification.

The Jumbo-Visma star was a further two seconds clear of Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Victorious), who finished third, with Tom Scully (EF Education-Nippo) and Josef Cerny (Deceuninck-QuickStep) fourth and fifth respectively.

The Slovenian has a lead of 27 seconds over Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), the 2019 Tour de France winner, who is seen as Roglic’s main rival for this year’s Vuelta title and came 46th on the day. Bernal’s teammate Adam Yates fared better, finishing 20sec down on Roglic and taking 16th place. Richard Carapaz, the 2019 Giro d’Italia champion and winner of the men’s Olympic road race, trails Roglic by 25 seconds after coming 35th.

The Frenchman Romain Bardet (Team DSM) finished a very creditable 14th, 17 seconds down, after a surprisingly good time trial performance. Jack Haig, of Bahrain-Victorious, who crashed out of the Tour de France having targeted the general classification there, finished 20th on the stage, 21 seconds behind Roglic.

“I am very happy to have achieved this result today,” Roglic was quoted on Jumbo-Visma’s team website. “Although the time trial was only seven kilometres, it was still very tough. I rode full speed from start to finish. Fortunately, it was enough. I don’t know exactly where I made the difference. We had to go straight up and then get through the corners well.

“We’ll see if I can keep the red jersey for three weeks.” Roglic added. “It’s a great start to this race. Hopefully we can enjoy this with the team in the coming days.”

Sunday’s stage two is a flat 166.7 km route from Caleruega to Burgos and should finish in a sprint. Fabio Jakobsen, of Deceuninck-QuickStep, who is riding his first grand tour having recovered from his shocking high-speed crash at the Tour of Poland last year, Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Michael Matthews (Team BikeExchange) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) are all expected to feature in a bunch sprint.