sun was out in Spain but the sky still caved in for Brit abroad Bradley Wiggins
on the beach in Benidorm.
Sky, usually so disciplined as a unit, had a completely shambolic opening TTT -
and at one moment had just four of nine riders together on the road until
Xabier Zandio managed to rejoin Wiggins and his fellow pace-setters in time for
this being the Vuelta, TV pictures were pretty shoddy and no one had any idea
what actually happened on the 13.5-km course around the popular package holiday
actually all seemed to start okay for Sky, who were one of the few teams to
negotiate the steep start ramp without any drama. At least three riders dropped
a chain on the beach-side ramp, which looked more like something from a Tony
Hawk skateboard video than anything vaguely cycling-related. Miraculously, no
one from Euskaltel was affected.
moment we saw Sky riding along strong, Wiggins bent on putting his Tour de France
heartbreak behind him; then, ten minutes later, we inexplicably saw the British
rider on the beachfront esplanade surrounded by just three team-mates. Talk
about a massive TV production fail.
abounded on Twitter. Perhaps half the team were wiped out, Bougyues
Telecom-style, on the tricky switch-back at the top of the course? Maybe
Wiggins' team-mates were sidetracked by a quick visit to Benidorm's legendary
"Sticky Vicky", a 65-year-old adult entertainer who does various
crude tricks with ping-pong balls, razors and balloons... aided, they say, by
reality was a bit more prosaic: veteran Kurt-Asle Arvensen had hit the deck
early on, taking out Zandio and causing a split. Well, that was the Team Sky
official line - and it's all well and good, but it doesn't actually explain
what happened to the three other absentees.
between the lines, it was a utter balls-up for Sky - and hardly bodes well for
Wiggins ahead of the sweltering three-week race.
Wiggo wasn't the only one to have a shocker. Fellow Tour collarbone cracker
Janez Brajkovic was one of those riders who suffered a mechanical failure at
the start, forcing his RadioSharck team (as they were displayed on the official
Vuelta feed) to go slow until the Slovenian was back on his bike.
about poor Geox? Forced to sit out the Tour after suffering the ignominy of
being NFI'ed in favour of Saur-Sojasun, the team of veterans Carlos Sastre and
Denis Menchov limped across the line in 21st place, a ride only bettered
in inadequacy by the ramshackle part-timers of Andalucia Caja Granada.
were some pretty thrilling crashes too. Saxo Bank's Nick Nuyens left the road
and landed in a prickly bush; Leopard-Trek's Davide Vigano also hit the deck,
despite his team setting the best time and seeing Jakob Fuglsang into the red
jersey; while BMC's Manuel Quinziato apparently saw his handlebars snap from
the frame of his bike, forcing the Italian to "limit his damages" and
forcing a crash "on his ass".
course, this being the Vuelta, there were no decent images - no images at all -
of Quinziato's plight, nor that of Vigano come to think of it. Perhaps the
producer was on one of his ten daily fag breaks, compulsory in Spanish law;
either that or he was on the beach taking it easy.
all, it's only supposed to be the third biggest stage race in the cycling