The weather was hot and, with the Vuelta’s uninhibited route planning pitting the main contenders against one another almost from the off, so too was the action.
After getting caught out by a moment’s distraction in 2016’s race, Chris Froome has been a man on a mission at this year’s Vuelta and has been paying it the same attention to detail as he does the Tour de France.
That’s more than can be said of Tour rival Romain Bardet who apparently forgot to bring his GC head to Spain. The Frenchman has effectively ruled himself out of overall contention already. But this will likely give him some wiggle room to try and win a stage later in the race.
Froome’s closest challenger as the next phase of the race got underway was Esteban Chaves (right). The Colombian climber is looking good again after an early season blighted by injury.
And then there’s been home favourite Alberto Contador. The Spaniard is on his retirement tour and already over three minutes down. But he’s been riding like he has nothing to lose and remains as popular as ever.
It all started in France with a team time trial that took a route through the Roman arena in Nîmes. BMC won the stage.
Then onto Andorra where Vincenzo Nibali who got the slip of his rivals in the closing kilometre to take stage three.
The backdrops were no less spectacular as the race moved back onto home turf, gradually making it’s way down the eastern flank of Spain.
The opening week was highly successful for Quick Step with three stage wins, including a first in a Grand Tour victory for Julian Alaphilippe.
The young, talented Matej Mohoric employed his descending skills to pull off a solo victory on stage seven to Cuenca.
And Cannondale’s Davide Villella enjoyed the taste of the climber’s jersey for several days. But despite a strong overall performance from Michael Woods, the week took a bitter turn when news emerged of a shortfall in their team’s 2018 budget.
Another big story was Sunweb sending home Warren Barguil. When it came to the crunch, the Frenchman was not prepared to follow team orders.
Over the course of the next week, the Vuelta moves through Murcia and Andalusia -including three more summit finishes- with another rest day on Monday September 4.
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