2022 Vuelta a Espana Rest Day One Roundup and Reflections
The action in the first three stages of this year’s Vuelta has given spectators a great show to enjoy, though many riders have criticized the organizers for planning the route on roads that are far too dangerous and stressful for professional cycling.
The 2022 Tour of Spain got off to an exciting start with a 23.3-kilometer team time trial in Utrecht, the Netherlands. The team time trial was won by Team Jumbo-Visma, thereby handing their current Vuelta champion Primoz Roglic (Slovenia) the best position to renew his position as defending title holder.
The Ineos Grenadiers team finished second in the team time trial, leaving its General Classification contenders Richard Carapaz (Ecuador), Pavel Sivakov (France) and Tao Geoghegan Hart (Great Britain) to battle a 13 second deficit on the defending Vuelta champion.
Team BikeExchange-Jayco delivered a surprisingly strong performance in the team time trial and its general classification favorite Simon Yates (Great Britain) was 31 seconds behind the race leader following the TTT. Portugal’s Joao Almeida lost 33 seconds with his UAE Team Emirates outfit and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) lost 42 seconds. This year’s Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (Australia) lost 41 seconds and was let down by his German Bora-Hansgrohe team that lacked the strength needed in the pure power discipline made to impress most strongmen and cycling fans in Germany.
Stages 2 and 3 were a feast for the sprinters in the Vuelta peloton. The menu presented riders with two flat stages – a 175.1-kilometer ride from ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Utrecht and a 193.2-kilometer round trip from Breda to Breda. Stage 2 saw Team Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sam Bennett (Ireland) take his first stage win in a Grand Tour this season, finishing ahead of Trek-Segafredo’s Mads Pedersen (Denmark) and Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Tim Merlier (Belgium). Stage 3 proved a repeated sprint challenge beween Bennett and Pedersen, but with Arkea-Samsic’s Daniel McLay (Great Britain) crossing the finish line in third position. The Vuelta points classification competition looks set to be a fight between Bennett and Pedersen if Bora-Hansgrohe can dedicate the necessary support to Bennett while sufficiently assisting Hindley in his fight for a second Grand Tour victory of the 2022 season.
After the first three stages of this year’s Vuelta a Espana that were contested in the Netherlands, most of the Vuelta general classification favorites are within 01:30 minutes of the race lead. Roglic, Carapaz, Hindley, Yates, Landa, and Mas remain top favorites as the Vuelta travels to the Basque Country, before entering mainland Spain.
Team EF Education First-EasyPost’s armada of general classification hopefuls Rigoberto Uran (Columbia), Hugh Carthy (Great Britain) and Esteban Chaves (Columbia) delivered a blow to their own Vuelta ambitions by dropping a whooping 01:19 minutes in the initial team time trial. With transfer season in full swing, the EF-Education First team is in dire need of stronger time trialists to support its GC favorites in team time trials, and someone to help its GC riders gain focus and actually improve their time trialing skills. Since departure of EF road captain Simon Clarke to Qhubeka and Israel-PremierTech, the team has made a nasty habit of positioning itself too far behind the front of the peloton in grand tours, thereby losing valuable seconds when crashes and surprise attacks occur and failing to take advantage of first week opportunities to secure valuable seconds in the general classification, which current Grand Tour champions have learned to master so well from watching Cadel Evans in his prime days.
The Vuelta weekend has been rough on former Grand Tour dominator Chris Froome (Great Britain) who is disappointingly 02:22 behind the race leader to much irritation for his Team Israel-Premiertech team owners – especially after teammate Michael Woods (Canada) had to abandon the Vuelta following a crash in stage 3.
Following the conclusion of stage 3, Team Jumbo-Visma’s sports director explained the team’s priorities in the first three stages of the 2022 Vuelta had been to keep Roglic safe and “dividing the jerseys.” This confirms Roglic has recovered from his Tour de France crash-and-exit in time for the start of this year’s Vuelta a Espana and is fit to fight for a fourth general classification victory. Additionally, the team has taken advantage of its victory in the stage 1 team time trial by making three of its riders enjoy the red Vuelta leader jersey – Robert Gesink (Netherlands), Mike Teunissen (Netherlands) and Edoado Affini (Italy) - thereby further enhancing the team spirit within the lineup.
Following the first three stages of this year’s Vuelta Ethan Hayter (Great Britain) leads the young rider classification, Jumbo-Visma leads the Best Team classification, and Julius van den Berg leads the King of Mountains classification despite being one of the worst climbers in the peloton according to himself. His last name, however, does mean mountain in German, so perhaps there’s still hope for the EF Education First team in this year’s Vuelta.