Kiwi cyclist George Bennett has rolled off the starting ramp for what could be a history-making Vuelta a Espana.

At least, Bennett hopes it will be, with the ambitious rider out to achieve some firsts for New Zealand cycling.

The 28-year-old is in his fifth attempt at the Spanish Grand Tour, with his best finish being a 10th placed result in 2016. After an eighth place overall in this year's Giro d'Italia, Bennett is aiming to set new marks, with perhaps a top five or a stage win on the agenda.

It's not a ludicrous suggestion. The 2018 edition of the Vuelta is a race where many of the top favourites are either coming off a crash at the Tour de France, or have admitted they are focusing on next month's world championships. That makes it anyone's game, and with Bennett in good form coming into the race, he may just throw his helmet into the ring.


He'll be in the mix once they get to the mountains, and certainly will be need to be after losing 42 seconds on stage one's eight kilometre time trial.

Bennett, who tomorrow will be named as leader in New Zealand's team for the world championship road race, finished 71st on the stage, which was won by Australian Rohan Dennis.

Bennett was always set to lose time in what is not a favoured discipline, and while he finished ahead of Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran, he lost chunks of seconds to the likes of fellow climbers Miguel Angel Lopez (44th), Nairo Quintana (34th) and Simon Yates (30th).

Bennett described his effort as "probably about par", but was disappointed with the time he lost to all-around rider Wilco Kelderman, who finished in 10th, 22 seconds down.

"It's not ideal. I did a pretty good TT for me but [the time lost] is too much especially compared to Wilco - he's my favourite to win this race I think."

He'll have a chance to immediately make some time back as the riders get straight into the more challenging terrain on stage two, with one of many uphill finishes awaiting. This one isn't as gnarly as some still to come, with the stage finishing with a 7.1 kilometre uphill at an average gradient of 2.8 per cent, but while it's unlikely to drop any of the big contenders, it could provide an early opportunity for in-form riders to attack.

"It's a really tricky stage - but I don't think we'll see big gaps in the final," analysed Bennett.

One stage down - 20 tougher stages to go.