Primoz Roglic (file pic). SIPA USA/PA Images

Champion Roglic wins Vuelta a Espana 1st stage

The Slovenian was the last man of 184 riders down the start ramp.

DEFENDING CHAMPION Primoz Roglic won the opening stage of cycling’s Vuelta a Espana on Saturday, a 7.1km individual time-trial raced around the city of Burgos in sizzling heat.

Slovenian Roglic was last man of 184 riders down the start ramp and covered the rolling terrain in 8min 32sec, six seconds ahead of runner-up Alex Aranburu of Spain, who as an early starter had been in the lead for much of the afternoon.

Aiming to become become the youngest winner of all three Grand Tours Egan Bernal of Ineos dug deep as the climb specialist was just 27sec slower than the Jumbo-Visma stage winner, his key rival for the overall title.

Winner of the Olympics time-trial two weeks ago, Roglic might have expected to finish further ahead of Bernal, the Giro d’Italia champion and climb specialist, who seemed at ease in the 33 Celsius (92F) heat of the northern Spanish town hosting the opener of the 21-stage epic.

Winner of the 2019 Tour de France, Bernal is racing the Vuelta for the first time, and would become the youngest man to win all three Grand Tours if he emerges victorious from stage 21 at Santiago de Compostela in three weeks.

French climber Romain Bardet also posted an encouraging time just 16sec down on Roglic, in a race that features nine summit finishes before the final showdown, a 33km last day decider against the clock.

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