Though beginning in the French city of Nîmes, rest assured, today does signal the start of 2017’s edition of La Vuelta a España; the final grand tour of the season. With plenty of top riders arriving here to salvage their season’s and potentially pick up new contracts, La Vuelta should prove to be another exciting affair which remains animated all the way to the final stage. Opening proceedings this year is a Team Time Trial of 13.7km around the streets of Nîmes, a technically demanding course which could be decided more by race craft than sheer brute force. The Alto de Nîmes has been generously bestowed the honour of being the day’s sole Category 3 climb, though is unlikely to even be noticed by the teams, as they bury themselves to secure the first jersey of this year’s race.
BMC have the backing of many to take the opening stage of La Vuelta, coming as no surprise, as the Swiss outfit are extremely well experienced and well equipped for this most complex of disciplines. With the power of Daniel Oss, Rohan Dennis and Tejay Van Garderen to lead the charge, it will be tough for any other team to match them in regards to the watts their riders can put out during such a contest. However, this is not a simple drag race to the line and the technical nature of the course could play a part in diminishing their chances somewhat on Stage 1. Regardless, it will take an impressive effort to beat them and BMC shall remain the favourites on the day for good reason.
Quick – Step have a few of specialist riders of their own for today, with Bob Jungels, Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert forming the core of a team which has the potential to win if functioning at its best. They will take confidence from the number of technical challenges on course, allowing them to edge closer to the raw power of rivals BMC, even if they remain unable to match them on the simpler parts. The shorter distance allows their other riders to come into play more so than a longer affair, as the talents of Matteo Trentin and David de la Cruz are able to stretch further for example. A near perfect performance will be required, but they do have the riders necessary to achieve it.
FDJ could be the joker in the pack on Stage 1, as for the first time in a while, they arrive at a grand tour team time trial with several specialists within their ranks. Tobias Ludvigsson, Anthony Roux and Johan Le Bon will form the basis of a unit which might be closer to the win than expected, thanks to the absence of long exposed sections of flat racing. The bizarre chance to secure the leader’s jersey at La Vuelta a España on French soil will be another motivation to pull off this potential upset.
Team Sky, Trek – Segafredo and Team Sunweb all arrive without the usual engine rooms which have previously seen them perform well at Team Time Trials, but this course does have the potential to produce a surprise, so they will not wish to simply show their faces and finish the day near the bottom of the general classification.
1st Quick – Step 2nd BMC 3rd FDJ