Vuelta Espana 2018 Stage 1: Costa del Sol-itary confinement

malaga

With the seaside scenery of the Costa del Sol providing our backdrop for the short, sharp time trial of stage one, the cliché generator in my brain is at full pelt.

My senses are filling in the gaps.

I can smell a heady mix of sea salt and sun cream. I can taste calamari – battered, doused in lemon and dredged through garlic aioli. I’m bloated with cheap lager and busily plotting against the Germans and their crack team of sunbed baggers.

I am British, you see, and the Costa del Sol comes with baggage.

One can only hope the riders turned down the Jaeger-bombs and left the club last night at a reasonable hour, alone, to settle down for a full eight hours. Avoiding the temptation, of course, to rise late and demolish the all-you-can-eat gut-buster breakfast at the nearest English caff.

In my experience, admittedly twenty years ago, a place like Malaga is teeming with any number of scenarios capable of compromising athletic performance. Thankfully most of the riders appeared at the start line bright eyed, bushy tailed, and unsullied by the underbelly of Spanish resort life.

Although with Vincenzo Nibali it was hard to tell whether his eyes were bright or not. He took the start ramp resplendent in gold aero helmet featuring a swish, curved, reflective visor that had him resembling Boba Fett from Star Wars.

All sealed in and mysterious.

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Being the whimsical cycling blogger that I am this had me musing on the fun that could be had by kicking off a Grand Tour with a Star Wars themed time trial. Unfortunately, my imagination then lingered a little too long on the idea of Victor Campenaerts folded into his TT position clad only in a skimpy Return of the Jedi bikini a la Princess Leia.

I had to go and have a little sit down, and have since gone cool on the idea.

Our early leader today was Team Sky’s Dutch time trialler Dylan van Baarle. He assumed that most awkward of TT positions – in the hot seat, in front of a TV screen at the finish line, and forced to produce a visual reaction for the cameras each time of anyone of any significance posted a time.

For some reason he appeared to be completely alone. In solitary confinement. Held against his will and cut off from any human contact as if in quarantine. I mean, you can contract some pretty dodgy stuff out on the streets of Malaga, but this seemed excessive.

The relief that swept across his face as Nelson Oliveira bettered his time and took his place was palpable. Oliveira was then beaten by Michal Kwiatkowski, who in turn negotiated his release at the expense of our first race leader and wearer of the red jersey Rohan Dennis.*

I still think it would’ve been more entertaining had he managed this dressed as an Ewok.

*And yes, Eurosport’s Sean Kelly is sticking with the infinitely less correct Ro-nan, rather than Ro-han Dennis. Makes up his own rules that guy.

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