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Despite having only seven riders at the start, Astana repeated their performance from last year by winning the Vuelta a Burgos team time trial, beating Movistar by two seconds; Gruzdev is the new leader

Photo: Unipublic










03.08.2016 @ 17:01 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

With just seven riders at the start, Astana were not expected to defend their win in the Vuelta a Burgos team time trial but the Kazakhs defied expectations as they made it two in a row on the technical, hilly course in Burgos. Stopping the clock in 13.10, they beat Movistar by two seconds and Etixx-QuickStep by three seconds and this was enough to put Dmitriy Gruzdev into the leader’s jersey.


Last year Astana dominated the Vuelta a Burgos, winning two stages and the overall with Rein Taaramae. They laid the foundations for their overall victory in the technical, hilly team time trial in Burgos where they completed crushed the opposition and built a comfortable advantage ahead of the queen stage on the final day.


This year the Kazakhs are back to defend their title but with a very different line-up and only seven riders at the start, they have flown under the radar for both the GC and today’s team time trial. Nonetheless, the team managed to deliver a solid surprise by beating all the specialists in today’s 10.72km test in Burgos which was an almost identical copy of the stage that they had won last year.


The team went into the race with Michele Scarponi and Dario Cataldo as their GC riders and the two Italians were keen to get their race off to a good start. That’s exactly what they did as they were two of four riders to reach the finish in 13.10 to take the win for the second year in a row.


However, the situation is completely different from what it was in 2015. Back then, Astana were more than 30 seconds faster than runner-up Caja Rural but this year they could only beat Movistar by 2 seconds and Etixx-QuickStep by 3 seconds. Hence, strong climbers like Jose Herrada, Javier Moreno, Ruben Fernandez, Giovanni Visconti (all Movistar), Gianluca Brambilla and David De La Cruz (Etixx-QuickStep) are very much still in contention for the overall win.


Race leader Danny Van Poppel’s Sky team also did pretty well to take fourth with 13.16, thus keeping Sebastian Henao, Ian Boswell,  David Lopez and Peter Kennaugh within striking distance. The disappointment was much bike for world champions BMC who had been aiming for the win but had to settle for fifth with 13.19 after losing Floris Gerts due to a crash during the warm-up.


Simon Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff ) are arguably the two biggest favourites for the overall win but they both lost a bit of time. Yates’ team could only manage 6th, losing 9 seconds to the winners, while Contador and Tinkoff lost 13 seconds in 8th. Among the GC contenders, the big loser was Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) as he lost 34 seconds to the Astana captains.


However, the biggest winner was Dmitriy Gruzdev. The Kazakh had been the first Astana rider to cross the line yesterday and as he was one of four riders from his team to reach the finish together, he took the overall lead. He is equal on time with Cataldo, Eros Capecchi and Scarponi while the Movistar riders are two seconds behind.


Gruzdev will hope for an easier day tomorrow when the sprinters should be back in action for the third stage. The opening section includes just a single climb after 56km of racing and then the riders will cross the finish line for the first time at the 112km mark. In the end, they will do one two laps of a 42.5km circuit that includes the category 3 climb of Alto Retuerta 22km from the finish. After the descent, the riders will head along flat roads to the finish where the slightly downhill sprint comes at the end of a long, straight road of more than 2km. However, strong winds are forecasted and this could be an extra challenge for the riders.


A tricky course

After the opening sprint stage, it was time for the first of the two key stages for the GC when the riders tackled the 10.7km team time trial around the city of Burgos. The start was very technical with numerous turns and then the riders headed up the Alto del Castillo climb which comes after 5km of racing. Then it was back into flat terrain for the final part of the race where the course again became more technical with numerous turns and roundabouts. However, the roads were completely flat.


It was a sunny and very hot day in Burgos when FDJ rolled down the ramp as the first team. They suffered on the technical course and were whittled down to just four riders when they reached the finish in 13.24 to set an early mark.


FDJ defend lead

As expected, the small six-rider Roompot team suffered in the discipline and they were far off the pace, crossing the line in 14.36 and so losing a massive 1.04 to FDJ. Ag2r were also unable to beat their French rivals as they were 20 seconds off the pace and had to settle for second place.


Euskadi did surprisingly well to slot into third with a time loss of just 26 second and the small 6-rider ONE team also did really well, going five seconds faster and taking over third place. Giant-Alpecin had a hard time with a team not suited to the discipline and their time of 14.00 was only good enough for fifth of the first six teams.


Best time for Tinkoff

Tinkoff lost an injured Sergio Paulinho early but powered along to pass the intermediate time check in a time that was 10 seconds faster than FDJ’s. However, they almost lost it all in the second half as they only took the lead by a narrow margin of 0.8 second.


Gazprom-Rusvelo looked like they were on track for a best time as they were two seconds faster than Tinkoff at the time check but when they reached the finish, they had to settle for third, 8 seconds off the pace. Burgos did surprisingly well to slot into seventh with 13.54.


Good ride by Caja Rural

Caja Rural were second in last year’s stage and they again excelled on the hilly, technical course. Despte being four seconds behind the Russians at the time check, the team finished extremely well to take take second, only 0.4 second behind Tinkoff.


It was very close at the top of the leaderboard and so Cannondale had to settle for fourth even though they were just 2.2 seconds slower than Tinkoff. Dimension Data were further back but 8th place with 13.45 was probably better than expected for the South Africans.


Astana take the lead

Movistar is known for their ability to finish team time trials well so when they were only one second behind Tinkoff at the time check, it was evident that they were going well. As expected, the crushed the opposition in the second half and reached the finish to take the lead with an advantage of a massive 11 seconds.


Astana won the similar stage in 2015 but were not expected to repeat the performance as they were at the start with only seven riders. However, the Kazakhs did surprisingly well and after having been seven 8 seconds faster than Movistar at the time check, they crossed the line in 13.10 to take the lead.


Etixx-QuickStep miss out

Nippo-Vini Fantini did much better than expected to take 8th with 13.44 but it was Etixx-QuickStep that everybody waited for. The Belgian team had passed the time check in the same time as Astana but at the finish they had to settle for third, 3 seconds behind Astana.


Simon Yates got a decent outcome for the GC as Orica-BikeExhange were nine seconds off the pace in fourth despite being here without any of their specialists. Topsport Vlaaanderen did much better than expected as they posted the 9th best time of 13.30.


Disappointment for BMC

Katusha had to settle for fifth with 13.21, a slightly disappointing performance for GC leaders Matvey Mamykin and Tiago Machado. The disappointment was even bigger for world champions BMC as they could only manage fourth with 13.19.


That left just the Sky team of race leader Van Poppel on the course and they looked strong as they passed the time check in fourth place, just four seconds slower than Astana. However, they couldn’t increase the pace in the second half and when they crossed the line in 13.16 to take fourth, it was clear that Astana had won the stage.



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