The Vuelta kicks off in Malaga
Young team impresses in Spain as Pole takes lead at the Vuelta a España, writes Vern Pitt
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”