Vuelta a España 2019 stage 1: Torrevieja (TTT) 13,4 km

The third and often the most exciting Grand Tour (in this decade, anyway) is upon us! As per tradition, the first stage is a rather tranquil team time trial...

…that takes place in the coastal city of Torrevieja in the autonomous community of Valencia. The two rather intriguing salt lagoons is where the stage starts, and lies on what would be the outskirts of the city.

Torrevieja itself is a rather new city, only 200 years old. The salt lagoons is a symbol of the origins of the city's wealth; salt. Consumed domestically but also sold to foreign markets, it still provides jobs to the inhabitants this day. The city has grown a lot the last couple of decades, from being home to 25.000 people to roughly 90.000 people. As with other cities in the coastal regions of Spain, northern Europeans have settled down here to enjoy what Spain has to offer.

Team time trials have been the the way to go for the organizers, when they had to decide how to open the last Grand Tour of the year. In this decade TTTs have been the norm in every edition except last year. Short, easy and not too technical, it perhaps symbolizes the idea, that the Vuelta is considered the least stressful GT by quite a few. Not that this makes this race any less than the Tour and Giro, because la Vuelta has gone through an amazing development this decade. This is after all the race where we have witnessed numerous exciting battles between the champions of the sport such as Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez, but also massive surprises as well! In 2011 Chris Froome showed GT-winning potential for the first time, finishing second to Cobo (later stripped of the title), in 2012 Purito, Contador and Valverde fought one another in a glorious battle, with Contador crowning his comeback with his decisive stage win on top of Fuente Dé after Purito looking certain for what would be his first Grand Tour win...

…but ended up in the latest all-Spanish Vuelta podium. The year after we had perhaps the biggest GT upset in this decade, with a 42 year old Chris Horner riding away from everyone and setting one of the fastest times on Angliru in front of the faltering favorite Vincenzo Nibali and the always solid performing Alejandro Valverde...

…and 2014 ended up being the unlikely stage of the much anticipated duel of the century between Froome and Contador, we were cheated of afterthey crashed out of the Tour, which Vincenzo Nibali totally dominated...

...worth remembering is the many sightings of the Froome yo-yo, while the Spanish trio from 2012 engaged in infighting up front, with Purito losing the most, conceding the 3rd podium spot to Alejandro Valverde. Honorable mentions to the young up and coming Fabio Aru, who won 2 stages and finished 5th (behind the Spanish trio and Froome) by his own strength and taking advantage of the giants watching each other.

Curiously enough, 2015 could have continued the trend of "odd year, surprise winner", if not for Astana taking down the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, who surprised himself and everyone by keeping himself in contention, best exemplified by the memorable stage win on top of Cumbre del Sol. He could not withstand the pressure from Astana on the last mountain stage to Cercedilla, and so Fabio Aru won the Vuelta, following up on his 2015 Giro podium and 5th place the year before in Spain. Podium finishers were the veteran Purito and young Polish hope Rafal Majka.

2016 was the year of Nairo Quintana, who podiumed the Tour despite a lacklustre showing. A great duel with Tour winner Chris Froome ended with the Colombian victorious after strong performances on the mountains, but especially because of Froome being caught on the back foot en route towards Formigal by Contador and Quintana, which gave Nairo the buffer needed in the time trial. Esteban Chaves conquered third place on the last mountain stage to Aitana by a long range attack, leaving Contador struggling and eventually finishing 4th in the GC.

2017 was the year of Chris Froome. After being close to winning the Vuelta several times, he finally pulled off the Tour-Vuelta double, which no one has achieved since Bernard Hinault in 1978. Besides one off-day, Froome never looked to be in trouble throughout the Vuelta in which he won 2 stages. It was also here we saw Superman Miguel Angel Lopez confirming his massive potential by being the strongest rider by far in the second week, Zakarin finishing on a GT podium for the first time (and only so far), Kelderman bouncing back after three difficult years in GTs and Contador riding off into the sunset.

Last year was the year of Simon Yates, who took revenge after his spectacular Giro collapse by riding more conservatively, even though he couldn't resist attacking anyway, because he was a level above his competitors, podium finishers Miguel Angel Lopez and young prodigy and heir to the Spanish cycling throne, Enric Mas, who was flying the last week, celebrating his excellent race with a stage win and overtaking everyone but race winner Simon Yates. Honorable mentions to Thibaut Pinot who won on Lagos de Covadonga and Naturlandia and finishing 6th overall after his obligatory off-day and his obligatory "lose time in cross winds" day....

This year will be the year of who? Primoz Roglic, ending an excellent season with a first Grand Tour win? Miguel Angel Lopez who also want a GT win, which some expect will be won sooner or later? Or will this year be another "odd year, surprise winner?

This year will be the year of who? Primoz Roglic, ending an excellent season with a first Grand Tour win? Miguel Angel Lopez who also want a GT win, which some expect will be won sooner or later? Or will this year be another "odd year, surprise winner?
So far in this millennium, Alejandro Valverde has won every single edition of the Vuelta a España in years ending with 9. This trend has gone on for almost 20 years, and I don't see it stopping now!
I think it will be between Jumbo and EF, they have the strongest teams for the TTT. Astana and Ineos won't be very far
I count more good TT-ers in Astana than EF. Considering the fact that the TTT is short and flat, EF don't really have that many of big engines, they would have liked a hillier one, I guess. Sunweb looks to me like a team that could do well on this course.
Torrevieja was only a few of stations for sea salt extraction along centuries.
In the last 50 years it has become a highly successful holiday center. Sun &
beach. Now, in summer the population is about 300.000-400.000 residents