VILANOVA DE AROUSA, Spain (AP) — Vincenzo Nibali's Astana team won the Spanish Vuelta's opening team time trial on Saturday, giving the Giro d'Italia winner a good start as he shoots for a double of grand tours this year.
Astana completed the 27.4-kilometer (17-mile) ride from Vilanova de Arousa to Sanxenxo along Spain's northwestern coast in 29 minutes, 59 seconds. "I don't know if I'm the favorite, but I'm happy to have taken some time from my rivals," Nibali told AS. "Tomorrow is the first stage with a summit finish. The goal is to stay among the overall leaders."
RadioShack-Leopard was second, 10 seconds off Astana's pace, followed by Omega Pharma-Quickstep and then Sky. Joaquim Rodriguez's Katusha team could only manage the 12th fastest time, leaving the other leading favorite 59 seconds back from the start.
"Unfortunately, today was a bad day," said Rodriguez, who finished this summer's Tour de France in third but has yet to win a major race. "We lost some riders too early and this conditioned our performance because in the final part we had to be fast. Never mind. Tomorrow is another day."
Fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, the 2009 winner, had a better day with his Movistar team and came in 29 seconds back. "It was a good time trial for us," Valverde said. "Clearly, half a minute for Nibali is a pretty good gap, but there is still a lot left and it can become a very long race. We have to look at the positive side and those 30 seconds we earned over (Rodriguez)."
Astana's Janez Brajkovic will wear the leader's red jersey for Sunday's second stage, a 178-kilometer (110-mile) ride starting in Pontevedra and finishing at the Alto Do Monte Da Groba summit, the first of 13 mountain stages in this 68th edition designed to favor strong climbers.
Riders began the opening stage from a glass-covered mussel platform, a long wooden structure used for cultivating the shellfish in the town's harbor, after being transported there by small boats. Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy, native of the northwest region of Galicia, was among the spectators who turned out to see the riders begin the third and final major race of the summer after the Giro and the Tour.
The three-week race finishes in Madrid on Sept. 15.