The Italian Simone Ponzi (Astana) won the 139km opening stage of the Vuelta a Burgos, which was decided in an uphill finish at El Castillo de Burgos. Ponzi benefited from the work of his teammate Vincenzo Nibali, who tested his legs ahead of the Vuelta a España by setting the pace (and tearing the pack to pieces) in the final kilometer of the stage. When Nibali ceased his effort, Ponzi found himself in a close, man-to-man contest with Daniele Ratto (Cannondale), who tried to win by striking first with no reward except an unsatisfying second result. Katusha’s Sergei Chernetskiy, very inspired as he recently showed in the Tour de Pologne, took third place.
Ponzi praised Nibali in his statements after the race. «Without Vincenzo I wouldn’t have won today, it’s that simple,» said Ponzi. «He did so much work in the last kilometers to set a high pace and keep the speed up.»
That allowed Ponzi to arrive with «good legs and a lot of energy» for the finale and grab his first victory of the season. Ponzi’s last win was in June, 2012 on stage 1 at the Tour of Slovenia.
Leaving aside the picturesque climb to El Castillo de Burgos, which the cyclists faced twice in the final ten kilometers, the stage also featured beautiful landscapes and interesting racing. It followed the conventional pattern as six riders went clear early after some aggressive racing and were caught right before the crucial moments in the stage’s endgame. Those escapees were Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Paolo Tiralongo (Astana), Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel), Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge), Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural) and Iliart Zuazubiskar (Euskadi).
The six were given kept on a tight leash by the peloton, driven by Movistar which thought of Giovanni Visconti and Nairo Quintana as potential winners for the stage, although the pair got boxed in during the closing kilometers and couldn’t contest for glory.
The stage was marred by several crashes midway through which caused the retirement of Dani Navarro (Cofidis, 9th in the Tour de France) and three Team Sky riders: Joe Dombrowski, Ian Boswell and Christian Knees. They are «bruised up», according to Sky DS Marcus Ljungqvist, but «should be okay for their upcoming races.»