Stage Report: No Froome or Thomas, but the Sky team at la Vuelta a España 2018 is no ‘B’ team, as they put Michal Kwiatkowski in the overall lead at the end of stage 2. The stage victory went to the ‘Old Fox’ Alejandro Valverde as he got the advantage on the Polish National champion in the final meters to the line.
Stage for Valverde – Overall for Kwiatkowski
Sky and Movistar knew the finish at the Caninito del Rey suited their men; Valverde and Kwiatkowski and so they threw their full strength to split the bunch and place their riders for the up hill dash to the line. Quick-Step Floors’ Laurens De Plus nearly ruined the plan with a late jump that nearly took the honors, but the Spanish/Polish tandem was onto him for the final rush to the line. Stage for Valverde and overall lead for Kwiatkowski by 14 seconds over Valverde with Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) at 25 seconds in third.
It was a hot day in the South of Spain
Stage 2 from Marbella to Caminito del Rey:
The first linear stage of La Vuelta 2018 will allow the riders to appreciate the territory’s geographical contrasts. Marbella, the area’s touristic epicentre thanks to the large number of blue-flag beaches found along its coastline, its numerous sports stadiums and its privileged climate, will host the stage’s departure. The peloton will leave the sea behind and head towards the mountains that frame the natural area of Caminito del Rey. Its steep slopes that wind between the peaks of the Malaga mountain range crowned Columbian rider, Esteban Chaves, in 2015 who, not only won the stage, but also wore La Roja. It will be the first high-altitude finale for La Vuelta 2018.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) mastered the uphill sprint at Caminito del Rey on Sunday to win stage 2, his 10th stage win on the Spanish Grand Tour. The Spanish veteran accelerated in the last 500m to get back to Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) and then dominated Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) in an impressive mano-a-mano with two of the best puncheurs in the world. Already 2nd on day 1, “Kwiatko” is the new overall leader as winner of the stage 1 time trial, Rohan Dennis (BMC) faded towards the finish.
The break of the day
A group of very strong attackers enjoyed the early climb of the Puerto de Ojen to quickly open a gap over the peloton. Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac), Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH), Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias) attacked from the gun and 7.5km later they summited the climb with a lead already up to almost 3 minutes. Their lead wouldn’t get much higher as BMC controlled the pace for the red jersey – Rohan Dennis.
Not a great day for the BMC team
Movistar rode hard in the finalé
Luis Angel Mate claimed the KOM points atop the first climb of the day and repeated the feat atop the Cat 3 Alto de Guadalhorce, as the riders crossed the finish line for the first time. They still had 72km to go and Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe turned on the heat behind the attackers. The gap, up to a maximum of 4 minutes on that climb, was dow to 2:30, 65 kilometers from the finish. Thomas De Gendt was dropped by the leading group with 55km to go while BMC and Bora-Hansgrohe worked together to drive the bunch.
Alejandro at the front
Luis Angel Mate kept collecting the KOM points and Pierre Rolland proved to be the strongest among the attackers but he was reeled in with 17 kilometers to go, as Sky took control of the bunch. Race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) was dropped along with his teammate Richie Porte, who eventually lost 13 minutes. It was also not a good day for Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) who also lost time. Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) made his late jump with 1.3km to go but there was no stopping Alejandro Valverde as he closed down the gap to De Plus and held off Michal Kwiatkowski to the line.
A strong attack from Laurens De Plus (Quick-Step Floors) nearly took the win
4th and 5th – Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo)
Keep it PEZ for everything Vuelta.
The Pole in red
Vuelta a España Stage 2 Result:
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar in 4:13:01
2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
3. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:03
4. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb
5. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale
7. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
10. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
11. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
12. Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe
13. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:08
14. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
15. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida
16. Michael Woods (Can) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale
17. David De La Cruz (Spa) Sky
18. Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors
19. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
20. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
21. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott
22. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
23. Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis
24. Sergio Henao (Col) Sky
25. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo.
Vuelta a España Overall After Stage 2:
1. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky in 4:22:40
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 0:14
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Sunweb at 0:25
4. Laurens De Plus (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:28
5. Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida at 0:30
6. Fabio Felline (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
7. Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe at 0:32
8. Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R-La Mondiale at 0:33
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo at 0:35
11. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:37
12. Simon Yates (GB) Mitchelton-Scott
13. Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors at 0:42
14. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
15. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors at 0:43
16. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
17. Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal at 0:44
18. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo at 0:45
19. Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates at 0:47
20. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale at 0:48
21. Rudy Molard (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
22. Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana at 0:49
23. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC at 0:50
24. Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott
25. David De La Cruz (Spa) Sky at 0:53.