The urgency of the Vuelta

Bloody hell, my five riders to watch have already become three. Juan José Cobo lost almost a minute and will now support Alejandro Valverde, who’s in the red jersey; while Thomas De Gendt’s almost three minutes down.

The Vuelta doesn’t muck about, does it?

The Tour de France has frenetic cycling from the start, but the general classification is generally opaque until the second week. That race is like a long, leisurely lunch. There are many courses, but you graze and only slowly become aware of how full you are.

With the Vuelta, they give you a bowl of olives and then five minutes later slam down a gigantic feast in which pork features prominently. “EAT IT!” they scream. “EAT IT NOW!”

Contador v Froome – round one

There was a similar sense of urgency from Alberto Contador during stage three. We’ve grown accustomed to Sky’s grinding erosion of the peloton this season, but Contador takes a different approach. He buggers about with the speed at the front of the race and while none of his attacks really did for his major competitors, it must be bloody infuriating having to tolerate his shenanigans.

Froomedog basically said afterwards that he didn’t see any point in going along with such japes. He let Contador race off and then slowly closed the gap using a more even tempo. It was wise cycling, but it’ll be difficult to stick to when it all gets a bit more nervy later in the race.

Constant changes of pace must be dispiriting as well. I like the sadness of an empty rider slowly losing touch with a steady leading group, but I can also appreciate the implosion that comes when someone fails to match the latest of Contador’s stabs of acceleration.

You think you’ve covered all his attacks and then: “Oh, what’s this? He’s going again. Bloody Nora, my thighs haven’t stopped burning from the last one yet.”

Like I said, the Vuelta doesn’t muck about.