Freire Wins Stage 2 of Vuelta
Oscar Freire (Rabobank) has won Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana. The three-time world champion took a crash-marred sprint from reigning world champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) and Leonardo Duque (Cofidis) to win the rolling, 148.7-km run from Allariz to Santiago de Compostela in 3:31:03. Freire is the Vuelta's new overall leader.
The break of the day occurred early. At three km, Gustavo Dominguez Lemos (Karpin), Raul Garcia de Mateo (Relax), and Manuel Vazquez Hueso (Andalucia Caja Sur) rolled off of the front. As was the case in Stage 1, the sprinters' teams rode tempo to peg the lead at about 3:00. By 91 km, 2:16 separated bunch and break.
In the last 40 km, Milram, Rabobank, and Lampre upped the tempo. With 34 km left, the escapees' lead was down to 1:45. Fourteen km later, the break led the field by 0:38. At 132 km, Angel Gomez (Saunier Duval) bridged up to the leaders, but he need not have bothered. Soon after, the peloton reeled them all in.
Francisco Martinez (Relax) and Gustavo Cesar (Karpin) mounted solo attacks, but the sprinters' teams let no one escape. Liquigas led the field into the last five km. With two km remaining, a crash took down race leader Daniele Bennati (Lampre) and Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne), among others.
With 1,500 m remaining, Philippe Gilbert (Francaise des Jeux) attacked, but the Milram-led bunch reeled him in with half a km left. Erik Zabel (Milram) bolted into the lead, but Freire had the German's wheel and passed him on the left. Bettini and Duque followed.
In the overall, Freire leads Zabel and Duque. Stage 3 might not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 153-km ride from Viveiro to Luarca will feature three Category 3 ascents and one Category 2 climb. The finish, however, will be flat, and a sprinter should win. Which one will it be? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!