Defending champion Primoz Roglic attacked in the final kilometre after a difficult climb to win an explosive opening stage of the Vuelta a España.
Roglic, the Jumbo-Visma rider who missed out on glory at the Tour de France on the final competitive stage only a month ago, was never challenged at the line after breaking away from a small group of riders who were at the front in the final kilometres. Richard Carapaz was second and Dan Martin third.
Two-time champion Chris Froome, in his final Grand Tour for Ineos before joining team Israel Start-Up Nation next season, had a tough time keeping up with the pace of his teammates toward the end and ended up crossing the line more than 11 minutes after Roglic.
It was an injection of pace from Froome’s own Ineos Grenadiers team – working for Carapaz – that did for the two-time Vuelta winner as he dropped out of the back of the peloton on the climb of the Alto de Elgeta, still 18km from home. That left little hope Froome could get back on come the more challenging final climb of the Alto de Arrate above Eibar, and he ended the day having conceded more than 11 minutes.
Froome said afterwards he will now ride in support of Carapaz, who took second on the stage. “I got a bit caught out coming into the penultimate climb, I started pretty far back and got stuck behind a crash at the bottom,” he said. “I’m really happy to be here, I’m really, really happy to be racing a Grand Tour again after two years of not doing any Grand Tours and just going to take the race day by day and try and do as much for the team as I can.
“The sensations are good. I still miss a little bit of that top end from not having raced much but it’s definitely an improvement and I hope to keep building throughout the race.”
It rained at times and was cold throughout the 173km (107-mile) stage from Irun and over three Category 3 peaks to the Category 1 summit finish at Arrate. Daniel Martínez and a few other riders fell with less than 100km to go but were able to continue. Mathias Frank, Alexandre Geniez and Ilan Van Wilder did not finish the stage.
Wednesday’s second stage will take riders through a 151km route from Pamplona to Lekunberri.
At the Giro d’Italia, Jan Tratnik earned his first victory in a Grand Tour by winning the 16th stage and João Almeida held on to the pink jersey. Tratnik, a Slovenian rider with the Bahrain-McLaren team, beat Ben O’Connor by seven seconds at the end of the hilly 229km route from Udine to San Daniele del Friuli. Neither of them had ever won a stage in a Grand Tour and both entered the final kilometre together. However, it was Tratnik who crossed the line first, with his arms outstretched and tears streaming down his face. O’Connor thumped the handlebars in frustration. Enrico Battaglin was third, 1m14s behind his victorious teammate.
“I attacked so far from the finish and the last climb was very hard,” the 30-year-old Tratnik said. “I didn’t think I could do it, but in the end, it was a perfect day. We are close to the Slovenian border so today my brother and my girlfriend were here. Five hundred metres from the finish I saw my girlfriend and I found some extra energy that allowed me to win.”
Tratnik, O’Connor and Battaglin were part of a large breakaway of 30 riders who escaped early on the first of six classified climbs. Almeida led the group of GC contenders across, nearly 13 minutes after Tratnik, and increased his lead slightly after attacking in the final two kilometres.
The Portuguese rider moved 17 seconds ahead of Wilco Kelderman. Jai Hindley lies third, 2min 58sec behind Almeida. “Sometimes the best defence is to attack,” he said. “In the end I was feeling good and I attacked, gaining a few seconds. It went well.”
Earlier, the Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria withdrew from the race before the start of the stage after testing positive for coronavirus for a second time.
Wednesday’s 17th stage is a mountainous 203km leg to Madonna di Campiglio, featuring four classified climbs, three of which are the highest category.