The third and last Grand Tour of the season is underway. The 2021 Vuelta started on Saturday with a very short 7,1-kilometre time trial in the streets of Burgos. The discipline’s Olympic champion Primoz Roglic took the win while Kevin Geniets, for his first Grand Tour, proved to be the fastest man from Groupama-FDJ, 26 seconds behind the day’s winner. Two seconds slower than his teammate, Arnaud Démare will potentially get a first sprint opportunity on Sunday.
The majestic Burgos Cathedral served as a backdrop for the opening of the Tour of Spain this Saturday. Both the start and finish were placed there, and only 7,100 meters separated the two points of the circuit. The course was divided into three sections: the short, initial climb of the Alto del Castillo, the descent and then four flat kilometers. “It was quite a special effort, since you had to start really, really fast,” said Rudy Molard, the team’s third rider on the launching pad. “It was not so simple to manage your effort over the course. Still, it was a nice time trial to start this Vuelta”. Despite the stage being held at the end of the day, the temperature clearly went above 35°C and that also made for more suffering. Arnaud Démare took the start shortly after 8pm and set a very decent time, twenty-eight seconds behind the eventual winner Primoz Roglic. “It was a good time trial, with a very punchy climb and then a very fast but still technical downhill,” said the former French champion. “Then, you still had to push hard for the last two kilometers and I think that’s where I struggled a bit. I had already given a lot of energy in the climb. The goal was to do it full-gas thinking of tomorrow, in order to get the engine started since I hadn’t raced for one month. Besides, these nine minutes won’t mean anything tomorrow. Anyway, my legs felt good”.
“We want to win again”, Anthony Roux
Twenty minutes later, Kevin Geniets set the team’s best time on this course in 8’58, doing so with the Luxembourg’s champion jersey on his shoulders. “We had also asked some riders not to take any risks because it was a very technical route”, said Philippe Mauduit. “However, they still had to go hard when they had the opportunity to do so, so that we would definitely be ready to go tomorrow.” On Sunday, Burgos will also host the second stage’s finish, after 166 kilometres quite flat. Arnaud Démare could then have a first opportunity to fight for victory. “With Arnaud, we’re lucky to have one of the world’s best sprinters in this race,” said Anthony. “Tomorrow’s stage is flat, but we know that it’s really windy in this area and that echelons can occur. The bunch might not get to the finish in one piece. We’ll need to be careful, as there will be a race before the final sprint. Still, we want to win again, and Arnaud himself is thirsty for victories”.