Olympic champion Roglič wins 1st stage of Vuelta race

Valladolid – Slovenian Olympic champion in time trial Primož Roglič won the first stage of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana, another time trial, on Saturday to take the red jersey already at the start of his bid to defend the 2020 Vuelta title. His compatriot Jan Tratnik finished third.

Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who aims to claim the title for the third year in a row, pipped Spain’s Alex Aranburu (Astana-PremierTech) by six seconds and Tratnik (Bahrain Victorious) by a further two seconds, finishing the 7.1km race in 8:32.

“Incredible. […] I’m very happy with how things turned out today,” the 31-year-old told the organisers after winning the opening stage, adding the course had been very tough.

Comparing the race with the individual time trial at the Tokyo Olympics, where he had seemed to ride like in a trance and dominated the field, Roglič said he had been riding full speed from start to finish and felt relieved when he crossed the finishing line at the Cathedral of St. Mary in Burgos.

“We’ll see if I can keep the red jersey for three weeks,” the defending Vuelta champion said, noting the time trial victory was a great start to the race.

Apart from Roglič, who celebrated his sixth Vuelta stage win, and Tratnik, Slovenia’s national time trial champion, another two Slovenian riders competed yesterday: Jan Polanc (UAE Team Emirates) finished 11th and Luka Mezgec (BikeExchange) 55th.

Roglič has a 27 seconds lead over Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers), who is considered his main rival for the 2021 Vuelta title. The Colombian, the winner of the 2021 Giro d’Italia, underperformed yesterday as he finished 46th.

His teammate Richard Carapaz of Ecuador, the road race Olympic champion, crossed the finishing line as 35th.

The Vuelta stage two is on today as the riders face a 166.7km flat terrain route with the winner likely to be decided among the sprinters.