Cervélo’s Konolovas leads way with top 20

More than 40,000 rowdy Dutch fans cheered 198 starters as Olympic time trial champion Fabian Cancellara blasted his way to a stunning victory that also puts him into the leader’s jersey of the season’s third three-week grand tour.

Weather played a major role in deciding Saturday’s time trial. Strong winds blasted the early riders before a heavy downpour began just before Cervélo’s Simon Gerrans headed out on the circuit, who started in the middle of the pack of 198 starters.

Spanish rider Carlos Barredo slipped and fell on the start-house ramp just moments ahead of Gerrans. Officials later placed a mat on the ramp to give them extra grip, but riders like Gerrans and Dominique Rollin still faced a wet and treacherous course.

“I had a super-good feeling, but when I was racing, it was raining, so I couldn’t risk too much,” said Gerrans, who also won a stage at the Giro.

“I could feel my back wheel slipping in every corner,” said Rollin, starting his first grand tour. “I lost seconds when I had to slow down for the corners.”

Course conditions improved dramatically for the final third of the pack, however, allowing them to take more risks and push harder.

Konovalovas, who won the final time trial at the Giro d’Italia in June, started in much improved conditions and stopped the clock 22 seconds slower than Cancellara.

“I didn’t feel anything special today,” Konovalovas said with a shrug. “I was just turning the pedals.”

The departure is just the second time in Vuelta history that the race has started beyond the borders of Spain. The start in Holland also marks the first of three grand tour departures from Holland. The 2010 Giro d’Italia will begin in Amsterdam and the 2010 Tour de France will start in Rotterdam.

The stage also held special significance for Cerv?lo’s veteran Spanish rider I?igo Cuesta, who started a record 16th Vuelta.

The 64th Vuelta continues Sunday with the 203.7km second stage from Assen to Emmen. The mostly flat course features only one rated climb, but is held on a series of narrow farm roads. Avoiding a crash will be critical ahead of what likely will be a bunch sprint, where Cerv?lo’s Hammond and Rollin will likely try their luck.



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