Rabobank and Sky have troublesome day at Vuelta a España team time trial opener
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Rabobank and Sky have troublesome day at Vuelta a España team time trial opener

by Bjorn Haake at 3:07 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
Flat tires and dropped riders cause both squads to finish well below expectations

rabobankThe Dutch Rabobank and the British Sky teams had a bad start to the Vuelta a España in Sevilla's lit streets last night. Sky was in 14th place, 28 seconds down on winner HTC-Columbia. Rabobank finished 18th, 36 seconds slower than the US team. Rabobank had some confusion when Grischa Niermann flatted, while Sky's efforts were hampered by their GC rider Thomas Löfkvist being dropped early on.

Löfkvist was dropped quite early in the warm Spanish summer night, Team Principal Dave Brailsford said on the team's website. "They went off like a train and Thomas just got distanced a little bit on one of the chicanes. That meant he had to fight really hard to get back, which put him into the red and it was hard going for him from then on."

Brailsford added that Marcus Ljungqvist, the main directeur sportif, made the call to wait for Thomas. "He [Löfkvist ] did everything he could to get back on but it was tough for him."

The rest of the team also had a hard time after the disruption. "Once your rhythm has been disturbed it's hard to get it back, but these things happen. It's not the result we were looking for but at least there's a reason behind it and they'd have been a lot higher up the leaderboard with a smoother run," Brailsford said.

Kjell Carlström was assigned to guide Löfkvist home, with both riders losing 39 seconds to the rest of the team. Juan Antonio Flecha and Simon Gerrans were first across the line, with the necessary five riders to stop the clock still together.

Brailsford acknowledged the strength of the other teams. "There are a lot of good legs in there - those front guys were flying - but these Grand Tour prologues continue to be pretty dramatic for us; we got the jersey at the Giro with Bradley (Wiggins), we then had the rain at the Tour de France and now this."

Rabobank never finds the groove

Rabobank also had hoped for more than 18th place, but they lost some time early on. A brief moment of confusion followed the flat tire of Grischa Niermann, as nobody knew who actually had a puncture.

"This is a tough pill to swallow," a disappointed team leader Adri van Houwelingen said on the team's website. "It comes very surprisingly. I did not expect us to win here, but 18th out of 22 teams is well the other side of the medal."

The instructions were quite clear - Denis Menchov would be the only rider the team would wait for in case of a flat tire. So when Niermann's tire lost air after five kilometers it should have been straightforward for the other eight riders. But both the racers and the Rabobank staff in the team car were disoriented for a moment. "In the artificial light and with the TV motorbike there we could not see who it was," Van Houwelingen said. "We had some trouble to identify Niermann and I think that was the same for a number of racers. But that is not an excuse for the bad presentation. That was not due to the flat tire."

Instead other riders caused additional problems, with Laurens ten Dam surprisingly losing contact in the second half of the parcours and finishing a good half minute behind his teammates. "He started with the ambition of top ten in the overall. Then a loss of more than a minute on the first day is a little bit of a knock."

Ten Dam himself made no excuses on his twitter account. "I was really bad. try to sleep and forget this. Next day tomorrow and hopefully 3 good weeks coming up."

Dmitriy Kozontchuk lost contact around the time Niermann flatted, further disrupting the rhythm. "Dimi is not in really good shape right now," Van Houwelingen said. "He crashed in Austria and only rode Limousin and Plouay afterwards."

When the team checked out the course in the evening, everything was still alright. "I had the feeling we were looking sharp, but that was obviously a false assessment. Really, the whole ride was marked by letdowns. They never had a good rhythm."

The team's goal is now to quickly forget the disaster and trying to put sprinter Oscar Freire into position for a stage win. Van Houwelingen is cautious, though. "This is Oscar's first big race after his operation for nasal polyps. This Vuelta is more than ever a race for Oscar to ride into form for the World Championships. Maybe this is coming too quickly for him to show something in the stages."


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