La VUELTA’19 Stage 2: Stage for Quintana, Roche in Red!

Vuelta Stage Report: The first road stage of the 2019 Vuelta a España was surprisingly won by Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. The Colombian climber managed to ride away from an elite group in the finale, and then to solo into the finish in Calpe. The red leader’s jersey is now on the shoulders of Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), who took it from Miguel Ángel López (Astana).

Stage 2 Route with Joaquim Rodríguez:

The first part of the stage will pass through Alicante’s hinterland, characterised by its winding roads. The second part involves a climb up to the heights of Alto de Puig Llorença (Cumbre del Sol – Summit of the Sun), 24 km out from the finish, which will sift out the 70-80 riders that will be competing for victory.

The stage 1 team time trial around Torrevieja caused quite a stir. Several riders crashed because of a burst swimming pool. The men of Jumbo-Visma lost 40 seconds on the winning Astana team. With Miguel Ángel López in the red leader’s jersey, the peloton started the first road stage today, from one coastal town, Benidorm, to the other, Calpe.

It was certainly not a flat stage as the riders hit the Puerto de Confrides (Cat 2 – 20.4km at 3.6%) straight after the start. This first climb allowed Sander Armée and Angel Madrazo escape. They were chased by South African Willie Smith and Spaniard Jonathan Lastra on the Confrides climb.

The South African and the Spaniard were only 20 seconds behind the two front runners, but they couldn’t close the gap. At the top of the Confrides, Madrazo took full points from Armée and Lastra. Just before the foot of the Alto de Benilloba (Cat 3) the four got together.

Not long after the regrouping, Madrazo took the KOM on the Benilloba, which put the Burgos-BH rider in the first mountain jersey. The lead was now 3 minutes. Before the foot of the Alto de Puig Llorença, the front runners were caught.

Sprinters such as Sam Bennett, Fernando Gaviria and Fabio Jakobsen must have hoped for a quiet final, hoping for a bunch sprint in Calpe. However, the climbers had other plans, as there was an acceleration from Pierre Latour and Italian champion Davide Formolo. The two attackers were soon joined by a particularly motivated Alejandro Valverde, who wanted to show off his rainbow jersey.

The 39-year-old Spaniard accelerated several times, Jakob Fuglsang and David de la Cruz couldn’t follow, and Steven Kruijswijk was in trouble. The four placed rider of last year tried to limit the damage, but the co-leader of Jumbo-Visma still lost a lot of ground on the steepest ramps of the Puig Llorença.

The finish was not behind the van de Puig Llorença, but about 25 kilometres further in coastal town Calpe. The final was largely in descending and flat line, making it a tactical joust between the best riders. The favourites for the overall victory looked out of each other’s eyes, but there was still a classification riders who managed to ride away on stocking feet: Primož Roglič.

Roglič, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru, Mikel Nieve, Nicolas Roche and Rigoberto Urán moved to the front. The other favourites — including Valverde, Chaves and leader López – were not far away. The six attackers worked together well, increasing the lead to 15 seconds. In the following group; everyone looked at López, who had to make an effort as overall leader.

Lopez was unable to close the gap and the difference only increased. With 5 kilometres to go, the lead of the six leaders had grown to 30 seconds. The stage victory was going to be between Quintana, Aru, Nieve, Urán, Roche and Roglič. At three kilometres from the finish, the escape was surprised by an attack by Quintana.

The Colombian immediately had a few meters on the others, mostly due to his fellow escapees looking at each other. Urán and Roglič tried to cross to Quintana, but they were not fast enough as they rode towards the line in Calpe. The Movistar rider had plenty of time to celebrate. A few seconds after the win of Quintana, Roche jumped to second place.

The Irishman of Team Sunweb is now the new overall leader in the Tour of Spain. Roglič – who managed to grab four bonus seconds at the finish line – compensated for his loss yesterday in the TTT crash. Urán, Aru and Nieve can also call themselves winners, López, Valverde and Chaves lost time.

Kruijswijk managed – thanks in part to teammate Robert Gesink – to limit the damage, but the number three of the past Tour de France lost more than a minute and a half on stage winner Quintana. The biggest losers, however, are Wout Poels and Tao Geoghegan Hart, the leaders of Team Ineos, lost almost 10 minutes.

Stage winner, Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team): “It’s something special. I don’t think I’ve ever won a stage like this, but there’s a first for everything. It was beautiful and special. The team and I needed something like that. We’ve worked brilliantly today and it brings results. Nothing was planned. We climbed Puig Llorença at a very high speed and the group was smaller than we expected. Alejandro (Valverde) and I have shared the roles very well to finish it off. There was a split and the six of us were motivated to work together and open differences. I managed to make the most of this tense situation. In my celebration, I wanted to make it look like I was flying. People call me the Condor and I want to keep flying high, to keep giving happiness to the people who follow me, who love me. Let them know Nairo is still very active.”

Overall leader, Nicolas Roche (Sunweb): “Did I expect to get the red jersey again six years later? Yes and no. When you race a Grand Tour, you have it in the back of the mind that maybe it can happen. I didn’t expect to have it today but last night, we were so close on GC and I received text messages from friends telling me everything was possible. I thought maybe it could happen in the next few days with a bonus sprint or something like that. I didn’t expect to do it the way it happened today but I’m more than happy. When they told me, I was speechless. Quintana rode very well. The guy on his wheel looked behind, there was a moment of cat and mouse. Two seconds of hesitation and he was gone. The last time, I only kept the red jersey for one day and Dani Moreno took it for one second on a mountain top finish. I’d like to keep if for more than a day this time so I’ll have an eye on Nairo, let’s see if he wants to go for time bonuses…”

Vuelta a España Stage 2 Result:
1. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar in 5:11:17
2. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb at 0:05
3. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
4. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First
5. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
6. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 0:08
7. Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) Equipo Euskadi at 0:37
8. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
9. Alexander Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
10. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
11. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
12. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb
13. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott
14. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma
15. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana
16. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
17. Victor De La Parte (Spa) CCC
18. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
19. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
20. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 1:36
21. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb 0:01:43
22. Quentin Jauregui (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
23. Ruben Guerreiro (Por) Katusha-Alpecin
24. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
25. Jacopo Mosca (Ita) Trek-Segafredo.

Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 2:
1. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Sunweb in 5:26:12
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 0:02
3. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First at 0:08
4. Mikel Nieve (Spa) Mitchelton-Scott at 0:22
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana at 0:33
6. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma at 0:36
7. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:38
8. Sergio Andres Higuita Garcia (Col) Equipo Euskadi at 0:40
9. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:46
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
11. Victor De La Parte (Spa) CCC at 0:48
12. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:49
13. Esteban Chaves (Col) Mitchelton-Scott at 0:51
14. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 1:08
15. Alexander Aranburu Deba (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA at 1:10
16. Pierre Latour (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
17. George Bennett (NZ) Jumbo-Visma at 1:13
18. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis Solutions Credits at 1:16
19. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 1:32
20. Luis León Sanchez (Spa) Astana at 1:39
21. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana
22. Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana
23. Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates at 1:40
24. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Deceuninck – Quick-Step at 1:41
25. James Knox (GB) Deceuninck – Quick-Step.

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