August 21, 2015

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) The opening team time trial of the Spanish Vuelta on Saturday will not count toward individual times, after complaints about safety from cyclists.

Vuelta spokesman Ivan Gomez told The Associated Press on Friday that, after a meeting with teams and race directors, cycling's governing body UCI decided the 7.4-kilometer (4.6-mile) stage will only count for the team classification.

That means all riders will begin Sunday's second stage from zero in the general classification.

Gomez said that some riders had expressed concerns that the course - starting in the southern coastal town of Puerto Banus and ending in Marbella - ''did not have sufficient safety guarantees'' because of a stretch along the sea that goes through dirt.

Movistar rider Rory Sutherland was one rider who had complained on social media.

The Australian teammate of hopeful contenders Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde tweeted photos of patches of dirt and sand with the message ''Is the (at)UCI cycling serious that this is acceptable?''

Two of the leading favorites to win the race, and the one-two finishers from this year's Tour de France, both criticized the course.

Tour winner Chris Froome said the decision to not count the team time trial for individuals was ''correct'' for putting riders' safety first.

Quintana, the Tour's runner-up, was more scathing in his description of the start to the three-week Grand Tour.

''It's a little embarrassing,'' Quintana said. ''This type of route is a lack of respect for the cyclists. Fortunately, it won't be too bad since the time won't count. I hope the organizers learn from the experience. We are the ones who will provide the show.''

The exclusion of the team time trial from the general classification could help those team leaders who don't have speedy supporting casts over short distances.

The Vuelta has programmed eye-catching starts and finishes in the past, including a start from an aircraft carrier and an arrival at Pamplona's bull ring.

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