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More safety concerns as Vuelta a España pros left to ride through Barcelona in dark after "ridiculous" opening stage

After a farcical team time trial in heavy rain and dark conditions, more than a few riders took to social media to express their disgust

Last night saw the 2023 Vuelta a España curtain rise with an apocalyptic team time trial through the rain-soaked, slippery streets of Barcelona in appalling light, defending champion Remco Evenepoel describing the evening start time as "ridiculous" and like driving "at 200km/h on the highway in full darkness without any lights".

Well, unsurprisingly, the peloton's complaints did not end in the post-stage interviews, many taking to social media to call out the danger that they were put through, Thomas De Gendt highlighting a further issue caused by the late start time — namely, that riders were left to traverse the city's traffic, in the dark, on TT bikes, without lights.

The Grand Tour veteran explained how his Lotto Dstny team had to ride six kilometres back to the hotel "through heavy traffic and in the dark without lights", describing that particular part of the day "the most dangerous of all".

The partner of Lidl-Trek's Edward Theuns also raised concerns about how riders were left to get back to their accomodation.

De Gendt voiced his thoughts in reply to an at-length social media post by CPA riders' union president Adam Hansen, the Belgian's former teammate, who said his "list of items to submit for changes is getting longer after today's TTT".

"Traditionally, the Vuelta has always had these late starts to have the podium live on the news," he explained. "However, this was the first time with the current weather situation, creating very poor visibility, something that was not considered before. These riders would normally be fined for riding in the dark without lights on. Not setting a good example to the younger generation.

"I've started races much later. I've done crits in the dark. The time is fine. But, it's the organiser or the UCI that should stop it or do something mid-race if conditions are not as expected.

"No one is complaining about only the time, but having it late encounters more risk, and if those risks happen, do something. But they didn't. It's not my race. It's not my governing rules. But they should be responsible, don't you also think?"

Hansen received criticism from some who suggested the CPA words and action should have come before the stage, the union's president then explaining how the evening unfolded.

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (ASO/Charly Lopez)

[ASO/Charly Lopez]

"If I am silent, I am working," Hansen said. "To be honest, the first guys started in good 'raining' conditions. So, the race has started. From there, it's more the UCI and organiser, under current ruling, who have the control. If unstarted riders make a stance, they could forfeit their whole race, if UCI doesn't agree when they have such a small time frame to work in, what do you expect?

"Plus, it would only be a small group. Not a whole. That's less power to them. I have just learnt today that it's possible in this strange situation that this could happen, when traditionally the Vuelta has always started so late, without complaints or problems.

"Yes, you are right, CPA couldn't do much because of the situation I noted above. So I think your 'hatred' should be directed at maybe the UCI or organisers for letting riders start or allowing this. I also have learnt today that late start times are not a problem, only when there is heavy cloud cover. No one expected it.

"It's confusing to me that I am the one trying to improve things for riders, and you blame me first and not the UCI or race organiser. If you really cared for the riders, you would support the person trying to help them."

 "The embarrassing broken record that is professional cycling"

Former pro Dan Martin also spoke out on his former colleagues' behalf, saying the evening summed up the "embarrassing broken record that is professional cycling".

"The rain was forecast. The sunset time was definitely known before, as was the course but then the complaints come after the event. Feel sorry for the riders affected but this won't be the last time."

At the finish, the riders' reaction was unanimous, Primož Roglič describing the course as "wet and treacherous", Evenepoel saying it was "super dark and super sketchy", and Geraint Thomas calling it "mad".

2023 Vuelta a España team time trial (ASO/Charly Lopez)

[ASO/Charly Lopez]

There will also be concerns about today's second stage, starting and finishing in the Catalan capital, heavy rain expected throughout the day, following on from similar conditions overnight.

Journalist and Eurosport presenter Laura Meseguer uploaded this video to social media showing flooding at a bridge metres from a street due to be used as part of the neutralised zone.

Hansen said the organisers "have seen this and already working on it".

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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