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Movistar team wins opening time trial of the Spanish Vuelta

PAMPLONA, Spain -- Movistar won the team time trial in the opening stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Saturday, making Jonathan Castroviejo the race leader.

The 16.5-kilometer (10.25-mile) ride ending in Pamplona's famous bull ring also marked Alberto Contador's first competition in front of his home fans since serving a doping ban.

Castroviejo led the group of Movistar riders, including defending champion Juan Jose Cobo, across the finish line in 18 minutes, 51 seconds.

“We had prepared really well for this time trial, we knew the route well and were focused since the very start — and it all turned out perfectly,” Castroviejo said. “We didn't have either a predefined tactic or a talk on who should have crossed the line first. It was a time trial to ride on full steam from the start, and that final kilometer on cobblestones made it really hard for us.”

Rabobank, Omega Pharma Quickstep, and BMC were next 10 seconds back. Team Sky was fifth with Christopher Froome, the runner-up of this summer's Tour, at 12 seconds off the pace. Contador's Team SaxoBank was seventh a further two seconds behind.

Contador returned to competition earlier this month after serving a ban for taking the stimulant clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France. He was subsequently stripped of that title, leaving him with two Tour titles.

This is the first of cycling's big three races he has been able to compete in since his ban ended, having missed the Giro d'Italia and Tour this year.

The 29-year-old Spanish rider said he was glad to be back with his team.

“I had not seen them for a long time and, even though these were only 16 kilometers, in a three-week tour every day is important and so I'm very happy,” he said. “Now we have to go home and recover. Tomorrow we have a very demanding day.”

Sunday's second stage is a 112-mile ride from Pamplona to Viana.

Sky team director Nicolas Portal said he was pleased with his team's start.

“The guys put in a really good time and we are very happy with how the stage went,” he said. “It was important to come through with no crashes and no issues and we ran the stage without any stress. Everyone is confident and this puts us in a really good position going forward.”

This year's course is considered to be one of the Vuelta's toughest with 13 mountain stages, including six summit finishes, which will favor the strongest climbers.

The 21-stage race ends on Sept. 9 in Madrid.

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Spanish cyclist Jonathan Castroviejo, second left, celebrates on the podium wearing his leader's red jersey next to retired Spanish road racing cyclist Miguel Indurain, second right, in Pamplona on Saturday, Aug. 18, after his Movistar team won the opening 16.5-km team time-trial in the Tour of Spain. (AFP)

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