The Tour Take | Vuelta a Espana Stage 2

 Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

The Steps

1st – Alejandro Valverde

2nd – Michal Kwiatkowksi @ s.t

3rd – Laurens De Plus @ 0:03

The Jerseys

Red - MIchal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)

Green - Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)

Polka Dot - Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)

The Aussies

11th - Jack Haig @ 0:03 (24th on GC)

53rd - Damien Howson

54th - Jay McCarthy

77th - Simon Clarke

92nd - Jai Hindley

96th - Michael Storer

111th - Mitch Docker

131st - Nick Schultz

139th - Rohan Dennis

144th - Alex Edmondson

155th - Richie Porte

 

The GC

1st - Michal Kwiatkowski

2nd - Alejandro Valverde @ 0:14

3rd - Wilco Kelderman @ 0:25

4th - Laurens De Plus @ 0:28

5th - Jon Izagirre @ 0:30

9th - Nairo Quintana @ 0:33

10th - Bauke Mollema @ 0:35

11th - Steven Kruiswijk @ 0:37

12th - Simon Yates @ 0:37

14th - Rafael Majka @ 0:42

The Route

A rolling 164km stage from Marbella to Caminito Del Rey comprised the first road stage of this year’s Vuelta. A Cat 2 climb came straight out of the blocks, before rolling roads saw the peloton climb 2,500m over the course of the day, and finishing with a climb up to Caminito Del Rey. This is a flat stage according to the roadbook, but hey, that’s the charm of the Vuelta.

 

The Key Point

The summit finish of the Caminito Del Rey was tough enough to eliminate the true sprinters, but with a 3.3% average for 5.1km, it wasn’t doing much damage to the peloton. The 5% average in the final kilometre was the steepest part, providing a launchpad for any brave puncheurs.

 

The Break

On the opening climb, the Puerto de Ojen, a group of seven went away featuring Thomas De Gendt, Pierre Rolland, Pablo Torres, Jonathan Lastras, Luis Angel Mate, Hector Saez and Alexis Gougeard. By the top of the climb, they had a lead of 2:30, with the peloton relaxing behind. The gap floated out beyond 4 minutes at times, but with several experienced breakaway artists, they weren’t given much leash.

De Gendt was the first of the escapees to be dropped surprisingly, losing contact with 60km to go, as the others held a 2:00 gap. Gougeard and Rolland attacked with 30km to go, and the pair stayed away until 20km to go.

 

The Finish

Team Sky don’t have their biggest big boys here, but they controlled the run-in to the climb, with Michal Kwiatkowski one of the main favourites for the stage. It was a small group already by the bottom of the climb, with Rohan Dennis and his Red Jersey dropped along with others.

Movistar were active at the front too, and contributed to a searing pace up the climb. The attacks started with around 1.5km to go, with Steven Kruijswijk attacking, and then Laurens De Plus, who got a short gap. De Plus still had a large gap with 500m to go, when Alejandro Valverde opened up.

Only Kwiatkowski could follow him, and the two flew passed De Plus with 200m to go. The Pole led it out around the final corner with 100m to go, but Valverde was too quick in the sprint. Kwiatkowski was only a bike length behind, with De Plus hanging on for third.

 

The Winning Ride

It was a vintage win from Valverde, who’s finally rediscovered something close to his top form after a tough Tour de France. It was a smart win too, as he let Kwiatkowski onto the front in the final moments. He’ll likely be supporting teammate Nairo Quintana here, but should be in the hunt for stage wins and a top 5 overall himself.

 

The Votes

3 - Alejandro Valverde. A desperately needed return to winning ways

2 - Laurens De Plus. It was an all or nothing move that nearly paid off

1 - Michal Kwiatkowski. Moves into Red, but he needs to win a stage at some point

-1 - Thomas De Gendt. The breakaway king shouldn't sit up 

 

The Movers and Shakers

It’s too short a climb to find much about about the top GC men, but we’ve seen riders lose time who could potentially have fought for the GC. Zakarin, Martin, Carapaz all lost over a minute. Porte and Nibali lost several minutes, but both are here to find form for the World Championships now.

 

The Next Stage

Stage 3 provides the first flat finish of the Vuelta, but the peloton has to get over a Cat 1 climb early in the day to get there. The Cat 1 Puerto del Madrono comes 23km into the 178km stage, and while its tough (5% for 20km), it comes early enough in the day that most sprinters should get back into the bunch. Only two small climbs come after that, with the finish in Alhaurin de la Torre on flat roads.

 

The Pick

Vivianni and Sagan are the big sprinting names here at La Vuelta; you’d be brave to pick anyone else to have the ascendancy in the kicks. Viviani should make it to the end so he’s a chance, but the smart money is on Sagan. The Slovak Sensation is climbing superbly right now, so he should have the best legs when it matters.

See you back at the social club,

Josh

 


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