Roche Wins Stage 2 of Vuelta; Nibali Takes Red Jersey
Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) has climbed to victory in Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana. The Irishman jumped away from a four-man lead group on the day’s final climb to win the 177.7-km ride from Pontevedra to Alto da Groba in 4:37:09. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) finished second at 0:02, and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) took third. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) took the red jersey from teammate Janez Brajkovic (Astana).
The hostilities started early. In the first km, Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol) jumped clear, and Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) joined him. Astana rode tempo behind the trio, whose lead ballooned to 13:09 with 68 km left. At that point, Lampre-Merida joined Astana at the front, and serious chasing began.
With 41 km remaining, Henderson, Rasmussen, and Aramendia led the field by 9:24. Vacansoleil-DCM joined Astana at the front, however, and the lead began to drop. It was down to 4:38 with 20 km to go. Belkin, RadioShack-Leopard, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Katusha joined Vacansoleil-DCM and Astana at the front, and the gap narrowed precipitously. At the base of the Alto da Groba, the escapees were less than a minute ahead of the peloton.
As soon as the road turned skyward, Henderson was dropped. Movistar took control of the bunch, and with 10 km remaining, Rasmussen and Aramendia were 0:11 ahead of the peloton, which reeled them in moments later.
Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) counterattacked, but he was reeled in quickly. Movistar and Astana drove the peloton, and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Brajkovic were dropped. Sanchez would lose two and a half minutes, and his general classification hopes plummeted.
Movistar’s pacemaking reduced the peloton to about 50 riders. With five km left, Sergio Henao (Sky) was dropped. The Spanish squad accelerated further.
With two km left, Movistar accelerated again. With 1.5 km to go, Leopold Koenig (Team Net App-Endura) got clear. Roche, Moreno, and Pozzovivo joined the Czech rider just inside of the one-km banner.
With 500 m left, Pozzovivo attacked. Koenig led the others to the Italian’s wheel, but Roche countered. Moreno chased the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff man, who led over the summit and held on for the win.
Roche viewed his win as a opportunistic one. “On the final two km,” he said, “everyone was fighting for position in front of the group. When the NetApp rider went away, I knew it was my chance because in a sprint, I wouldn’t be able to win against guys like Valverde, so I jumped after him. Entering the final km, I was trying to stay calm, and as the group from behind was chasing, I opened the sprint from pretty far out, and I just kept pushing to the finish line and ultimately, I took the win. I’m really happy and relieved. We were on this climb on last week’s recon, so I knew the uphill finish. The whole team backed me up all the way, and the win is definitely theirs as well.”
In the overall, Nibali leads Roche by 0:08 and Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Leopard) by 0:10. Stage 3 will be a 184.8-km ride from Vigo to Valagarcia de Arousa. The only categorized climb on the course will be the Category 3 ascent to the finish. Who will take the win? Philippe Gilbert (BMC)? Daniel Moreno (Katusha)? Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!