VUELTA: Stage 2 – Sky bounce back as Sutton wins

Team Sky bounce back as Chris Sutton wins stage 2, his first Grand Tour stage for the Aussie

Chris Sutton took a resounding victory on stage two of the Vuelta a Espana after timing his sprint perfectly into Playas de Orihuela. The Australian moved into position on a tough ramp up to the line before following in the wheel tracks of Vicente Reynes before overhauling the Spaniard as the duo powered away from the chasing pack. Daniele Bennati (Leopard Trek) came home sixth to move into the leader’s red jersey.

“For me it’s a dream come true to win a stage at a Grand Tour” says Chris Sutton. “We don’t exactly have the perfect lead-out train here but what we do have is strength.  Kurt [Asle-Arvesen] is the big ‘El Capitano’ and he was looking after us all day and told us when we needed to get to the front; he was a big help to me. It was really myself and Brad who didn’t have to go back to the car which was perfect.”

“Then I was with Bradley and he took me up the outside. I then came flying round the roundabout with about 2.5km to go. I had good speed and was on Thomas Löfkvist’s wheel so I just yelled at him ‘Go!’. He looked back, saw it was me and then just drilled it straight up the right-hand side and took me right to the front, positioning me perfectly.  I thought ‘oh this is a long way to go’ and I looked back and no one was there. So to win today and to deliver it for all of Team Sky is a dream come true – I can’t believe it.

“For the team, after yesterday it’s pretty special. Everyone was saying ‘Team Sky have had a bad start, everyone’s disappointed’ but we’d actually kept the spirits and the morale super-high and we proved that today. We worked together as a unit.”

Steven de Jongh, Team Sky Sports Director: “It’s a really good result for CJ and a good boost for the team. We really went in detail through the final kilometres this morning in the presentation on the bus and we had some nice information from the guys who were standing on the finish so we could talk them through it.”

“It is also great that Eddy won in Hamburg today so it is a really great day for Team Sky.  Today was Brad’s first stage back racing. He was a bit cautious after his crash at the Tour but it was a tricky finish today and some of the contenders lost time.  Tomorrow will be a tough stage with the climbs at the end which could be quite selective. We will see what happens at the finish.”

Bennati Moves Into Red after Vuelta Second Stage

After Bennati (Leopard-Trek)  finished sixth in a chaotic bunch sprint in Playas de Orihuela, and while he and Fuglsang remained tied on time, Bennati’s place at the finish on stage 2 gives him the race lead.

“I dedicate this jersey to Wouter [Weylandt],” said Bennati. Weylandt was tragically killed on a descent during the third stage of the Giro d’Italia. “I have taken wins since Wouter has passed away, but this is the first honour I dedicate specifically to him. He won a stage of the Vuelta [stage 17 in 2008].”

The peloton began the second day of racing in La Nucía under the unrelenting Spanish sunshine. With temperatures reaching 42º Celsius, the bunch seemed content to let an early break of four slip away and gain a maximum advantage of more than six minutes. The first hour of racing covered a slow but steady 35 kilometers.

LEOPARD TREK came to the front of the field to keep an eye on the proceedings when the break reached the six minute mark. They would remain at the front, alone, until Liquigas-Cannondale, Skil-Shimano and HTC-Highroad, all with an interest in the sprint finish, moved up to share the workload. The break’s advantage had been brought down to one minute with 30 kilometers left to race.

Twelve kilometers from the finish, the last rider from the break had been reabsorbed by the HTC-Highroad led peloton. The field flew along at speeds near 70 kilometers/hour on the run-in toward the finish.

“Our plan was clear,” said Bennati. “We decided we would put Fabian [Cancellara] and Stuey [Stuart O’Grady] on the front. Fabian would lead on the climb between four and two kilometers. Stuey was to take over before [Robert] Wagner and Viga [Davide Viganò] began the leadout.”

“This was a plan that I thought could work when we reviewed it,” Bennati continued. “The only question was one of fine tuning. The finish of this stage was different in many perspectives than a typical sprint. It’s a hard, technical finish. We followed the plan initially, but it couldn’t carry us through to the line.”

As planned, Cancellara nudged his way to the front of pack four kilometers from the finish. He led the bunch up the climb and allowed O’Grady to take over on the descent. Inside the final kilometer, Viganò took a flyer. The field reeled him back 500 meters from the finish. “I took [Tom] Boonen’s (Quickstep) wheel when he started to sprint on the final hill,” explained Bennati. “He held back a bit at the top of the climb, so I did, too. We were on a false flat, and there was still a way to go to the line. When the attack came from [Vicente] Reynes of Omega Pharma-Lotto, I had a small moment of doubt. The moment cost me my chance to sprint for victory. By the time I decided to respond, I had run out of road to close the gap.”

“I am very happy to have the leader’s jersey,” said Bennati. “But it’s a double feeling. It’s an honor to take the race lead in a Grand Tour. I would be happier if I had taken the race lead with the win.” Bennati knows there other opportunities during the next three weeks to secure a stage victory. “I’m feeling good right now,” commented Bennati. “I’m happy with my condition, and the team is strong. There are more chances to come.”

Stage three between Petrer and Totana covers roads used during the Tour of Murcia in March. The straight forward route includes one category three climb that tops out ten kilometers from the line. The finish could play into the hands of power sprinters or may give a late attacker the opportunity to stay away.

Stage 1 |

Top 10
1. Christopher Sutton (Aus) Sky Procycling 4:11:41
2. Vicente Reynes Mimo (Spa) Omega Pharma-Lotto
3. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Skil – Shimano
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5. Matti Breschel (Den) Rabobank Cycling Team
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek
7. Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Pro Team Astana
8. Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
9. Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
10. John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad

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