American team BMC Racing claimed victory in a neutralised team time trial in the first stage of Spain’s Vuelta on Saturday.

Slovakian Peter Velits takes the leader’s red jersey as he was first to cross the line with Saxo-Tinkoff second and Orica-GreenEdge third.

Organisers announced on Friday that times from the 7.4 kilometre stage from Puerto Banus to Marbella would not count towards the general classification due to safety concerns over the route.

The coastal route included a narrow wooden bridge and a potentially hazardous dirt track.

Chris Froome, who is hoping to become just the third man to win the Tour de France and the Vuelta in the same year, had expressed his concern at the route and cruised through the stage without taking any risks as Team Sky finished down in 20th, over a minute behind BMC.

“Our goal today was just to stay safe. It’s a big disappointment really to have a neutrilised stage like that because we were all looking forward to riding a good TTT, going full gas, and having a good race,” said Froome’s Sky teammate Geraint Thomas.

“When the organisers said there weren’t going to be any times taken for the GC, we decided to take it easy and stay upright.

“If everyone had have gone flat out, it might have been quite dangerous.”

Most of the other race favourites did likewise as Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar team finished ninth with an Astana team containing Vincenzo Nibali, Fabio Aru and Mikel Landa down in 13th.

The race gets underway for real on Sunday with a 158.7km ride from Alhuarin de la Torre to Caminito del Rey. – Agence France-Presse

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