The Tour Take | Vuelta a Espana Stage 2
1st – Alejandro Valverde
2nd – Michal Kwiatkowksi @ s.t
3rd – Laurens De Plus @ 0:03
Red - MIchal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)
Green - Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky)
Polka Dot - Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis)
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,