The Vuelta kicks off in Malaga

Young team im­presses in Spain as Pole takes lead at the Vuelta a Es­paña, writes Vern Pitt

Cycling Weekly - - WELCOME -

De­spite en­ter­ing the Vuelta a Es­paña with­out one of its mar­quee Grand Tour lead­ers, Team Sky once again found it­self with the over­all leader in its ranks fol­low­ing the first three days of rac­ing.

This time it was the turn of Pol­ish na­tional cham­pion Michał Kwiatkowski, who took the Tour of Spain’s red leader’s jersey on Sun­day.

Sky has ar­rived with the fifth youngest team in the race, in­clud­ing Grand Tour debu­tants Tao Geoghe­gan Hart and Pavel Si­vakov (in his first sea­son in the pro ranks). But the squad showed lit­tle sign of lack­ing ex­pe­ri­ence on Sun­day as they set a blis­ter­ing pace on the fi­nal third-cat­e­gory climb to shred a clutch of over­all con­tenders. Race favourite Richie Porte (BMC) lost 13.31 to Kwiatkowski by the line, while Dan Martin (Uae-emi­rates) lost 1.15.

The fi­nal rider to go to the front for Sky was 23-year-old Brit Geoghe­gan Hart, who fur­ther demon­strated the im­prove­ment he has made dur­ing his se­cond year in the World­tour af­ter tak­ing fifth place at Tour of Cal­i­for­nia and 13th at the Critérium du Dauphiné ear­lier in the sea­son. At the Vuelta he led the bunch through the penul­ti­mate kilo­me­tre, eas­ily shut­ting down an at­tack from Steven Krui­jswijk (Lot­tonl-jumbo).

For­mer world cham­pion and Mi­lan-san Remo win­ner Kwiatkowski was even­tu­ally pipped at the line by Ale­jan­dro Valverde (Mo­vis­tar) but took the leader’s jersey any­way. He was full of praise for the team. He said: “The Vuelta has just started and we have to play it smart with the whole team, think about how we’re go­ing to race and what is the op­por­tu­nity to bring suc­cess to Team Sky. It doesn’t mean only on the GC. We have to be flex­i­ble and take what is there, whether it’s with David [De La Cruz], Tao, Ser­gio [He­nao] or any other rid­ers.”

But the Pole, who has been keen to lead a team at a Grand Tour since his com­mand­ing per­for­mance at the Tour de France last year — he had pre­vi­ously been thought of as more of a Clas­sics rider — eas­ily main­tained his lead on Mon­day’s flat stage, won by sprinter Elia Vi­viani (Quick Step Floors).

“The Vuelta has just started and we have to play it smart”

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