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"You couldn't see anything": Remco Evenepoel slams "ridiculous" Vuelta a España team time trial in horrendous conditions

Torrential rain, flooding, crashes and darkness — chaos as final Grand Tour of the season gets underway in Barcelona

When the Vuelta a España organisers pictured their opening night team time trial in Barcelona, the thought of a golden sunset and a most pleasant late summer dusk must have been an appealing one. The chance of the Catalan capital's first rain in weeks — a torrential, monster puddle-causing downpour at that — creating a hellscape of fading light, sodden roads and crashes must have seemed the most unlikely of worst nightmares.

The list of teams impacted by crashes was long, defending champion and newly crowned world time trial champion Remco Evenepoel giving an exasperated gesticulation to the TV cameras at the finish, followed up in his post-stage interview.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)

"You have the whole day to do a team time trial," he said. "We have to wait the whole day when it was dry. Rain is rain, we cannot change the rain, but we can change the circumstances that we race in.

"We go on the limit because it is a race we want to win, so you risk a lot already and then with all the factors coming — it's super dark and super sketchy, on these roads it's just ridiculous. I will get haters and criticisers on me again, but that's just how it is.

"Today what the organisation should know is that it's dangerous and they should think about safety... yeah, just a shame, it affects everybody. All the GC teams went super slow because you couldn't see anything, you couldn't race at 100 per cent... it's just strange that they let us race in the dark like this."

The comments were the culmination of an evening punctuated by crashes and at times farcical conditions, the final corner before the finish seeing riders splash through standing water before a right-hander that saw crashes for Arkéa–Samsic, Alpecin–Deceuninck and Jayco–AlUla's GC hope Eddie Dunbar.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)

The message about the corner's danger seemed to have passed through the teams by the time the favourites started later, but falls were seen elsewhere, Ineos Grenadiers' Laurens De Plus crashing heavily at a stretch of road where six riders from Jayco–AlUla fell earlier.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)

Geraint Thomas spoke about Ineos' incident afterwards: "I was on the front, I think I went in a bit too hot and he hit the deck. It set us off on a bad foot. Pippo [Filippo Ganna] punctured and then a few more guys got a bit nervous after the crash. It was just one of those rides that didn't ever feel like we'd got going.

"The nature of the course as well, I keep saying, same for everyone, but it does feel like if you've got gas it's hard to really use it but yeah it's the way it goes... lovely way to start. I felt quite confident at that speed in the corner, but I think you still need to take an edge off. Going into that right-hander I just went a little bit too fast."

Before night fell and the puddles filled — the start ramp's somewhat comically swept at by race staff with brushes, seemingly to little effect — dsm-firmenich set the fastest time, at that point expected to be a benchmark that would earn them a few minutes in the hot seat before the big boys arrived.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)

Team after team followed and with the roads getting darker and wetter the time stood until the very end, U23 world time trial champion Lorenzo Milesi taking the first leader's jersey of the race, something his team will no doubt put all their efforts into defending on tomorrow's hilly stage which loops back into Barcelona for another stage finish.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)
2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (GCN/Eurosport)

Unfortunately for all involved, tomorrow's forecast looks worse than today's, the torrential downpours likely through the night until later in the day, adding to concerns about crashes at the start of a Grand Tour. It seems likely we will be hearing about the fallout from this evening's stage much more in the coming days.

Dan is the news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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darnac | 10 months ago

The curse of wanting a big TV audience...

ubercurmudgeon | 10 months ago

Doubtless he is completely correct, but I just find it impossible to take seriously anything said by anyone wearing an "aero snood".

dassie replied to ubercurmudgeon | 10 months ago
1 like

No accounting for what's done in search of all those additive 1-2% marginal gains.  Orgs got it wrong.  Remco's right.

Rendel Harris | 10 months ago

A total farce. If the organisers have any guts they should admit they made a stupid mistake starting so late in the day and declare this stage null and void and start from scratch tomorrow.

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