The second half of the Vuelta a Espana started this Tuesday in the Valencian Community. The riders resumed the race with a 31-kilometre, flat time trial. From Elche to Alicante, the French champion in the discipline Bruno Armirail proved to be the fastest within the Groupama-FDJ, finishing 29th position, almost three minutes behind the winner and leader Remco Evenepoel. On Wednesday, the stage could suit the sprinters.

Two days later, and nine hundred kilometres further south, the Vuelta was back on Tuesday. The only individual time trial of the race was on the menu between Elche and Alicante, over 30.9 quite straightforward kilometres. “It was a route for pure specialists, very very fast”, explained Anthony Bouillod, one of the team’s coaches. “There were a few turns, but no dangers, as there were mostly wide, long roads where you had to be able to hold your position for a long time and be efficient with it. The wind changed compared to yesterday’s recon, as it was more a front wind in the first part, and a side wind in the second. The guys were a little worried, but we then looked at the day’s forecasts which rather predicted a 3/4 head wind in the first part, and a 3/4 tailwind in the second. This is what happened eventually, and as far as I know, it was the same for everyone. The wind did not change throughout the afternoon.” Shortly after 2 p.m., Fabian Lienhard was the first Groupama-FDJ rider to tackle the course. In the following hour, Australia’s Miles Scotson and the French time trial champion Bruno Armirail also got underway.

“It wasn’t like in a super day, where nothing moves”, Anthony Bouillod

“Two of our riders were motivated to do the time trial full gas: Miles and Bruno”, said Anthony. “However, the two of them weren’t in a great day. Miles started quite fast just to see, but he didn’t feel great in the second part. The conditions were also special, with a high level of humidity. If you started a little too fast, you could pay for it in the second part. Miles then finished easy to save energy for the next stages. Bruno did not have a great day either. He started well, and we were in the mix until the first checkpoint, fifteen seconds from Cavagna. He especially started to crack a little between the first and second checkpoints. From the way he was moving on the bike, we felt it wasn’t like in a super day, where nothing moves. This explains the average result”. Eventually, the French rider placed 29th on the stage, 2’56 behind the outstanding red jersey, Remco Evenepoel. “The other riders took it a little bit easy because their goals will be in the mountains”, added Anthony. “Our goal in this Vuelta is to win a stage. We knew we had nothing to gain with the climbers in the time trial. They just had to do it well, work a little, and get the engine going again after yesterday’s rest day. We won’t say that it was a second rest day, but it was a light day, without too much pressure, where they could recover well before tackling the second week”.

On Wednesday, a 191-kilometre stage without any real climb could lead to a bunch sprint.