Switzerland's Alex Zülle grabbed the lead in the Vuelta on Saturday. He heads the Tour of Spain after completing the first 13 kilometre time trial stage in Malaga with a time of 17 minutes eight seconds.
Getting well into his stride on an uncomplicated route Zülle, the 1996 and 1997 Vuelta winner, came in two seconds ahead of the 1998 victor, Spain's Abraham Olano. The Czech Republic's Jan Hruska took third place on the podium.
Zülle has plenty to motivate him in the Vuelta. His Tour de France this year was an unqualified failure, and he needs to claw back some credibility in the eyes of his team, Spain's Banesto.
With seven Spanish teams riding in this year's Vuelta, the competitive stakes are high, adding an extra quality to Zülle's first stage victory.
There was a mixed showing from the other Swiss riders. The unfancied Fabian Jeker came in 17th, followed up by Laurent Dufaux in 28th.
But this year's Tour de Suisse victor, Oscar Camenzind, was down in 83rd. Armin Meier and Rolf Hauser found themselves placed 132nd and 167th.
Alex Zülle's win keeps him 42 seconds ahead of the Vuelta favourite, Germany's Jan Ullrich, who took the 20th spot. The other riders tipped to win, Russia's Pavel Tonkov and Spain's José-Maria Jimenez and Fernando Escartin, find themselves faced with a bigger gap still.
swissinfo with agencies
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