MADRID, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Primoz Roglic began his defense of the Vuelta de Espana with an emphatic win in the first stage of the 2020 edition on Tuesday which produced significant time differences among the leading riders in the race.
The Slovenian, who saw his grip on the Tour de France slip away in the penultimate stage of that race in September, was able to launch a decisive attack from a small group of eight riders around a kilometer from the end of the climb to the Alto de Arrate.
Roglic can thank his teammate Sepp Kuss, whose work on the final climb of a hugely testing first stage shattered what was left of a peloton already stretched on a leg-breaking opening day and left riders such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) trailing over the line almost a minute later.
Richard Carapaz (Ineos) showed he is another favorite for this year's race crossing the line in second place, followed by Dan Martin (Israel Startup Nation) and Esteban Chaves (Michelton Scott).
The first stage of the three week grand tour was a sharp awakening for the riders, who had to cover the hilly 173 kilometers between Irun and Arrate in horrible conditions with gusting winds and pouring rain - conditions which can be expected quite a lot on the coming days.
The wind and rain made roads slippery with descents made even more dangerous by falling leaves and there were several falls with one leading to Team Sunweb's Ilan Van Wilder's withdrawal, while AG2R's Mathias Frank also withdrew after just 92 kilometers and his teammate Alexandre Geniez also climbed off his bike before the end of the stage.
One of the day's major surprises was seeing four times Tour de France winner Chris Froome struggling to hang onto the back of the main 'peloton' on the third category climb of the Alto de Eljeta 18 kilometers from finish, before being dropped just before the final climb of the day and Froome's options for the race are over almost before they begun.
Wednesday will see another tough stage taking the race 150 kilometers from Pamplona to Lekunberri with the last 25 kilometers seeing a first category climb followed by a technical descent to the finish on another day when weather conditions are unlikely to help.
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