Vuelta Espana: Stage 2

A sensational final kilometre effort by the ‘Marvel from Murcia’ – Alejandro Valverde, sees him knotch up his 120th pro victory and his tenth stage in the Vuelta

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Vuelta Espana: Stage 2

A sensational final kilometre effort by the ‘Marvel from Murcia’ – Alejandro Valverde, sees him knotch up his 120th pro victory and his tenth stage in the Vuelta

Pic: Getty Images

Alejandro Valverde wrote another page in his legendary palmeres at the end of a scorching, demanding stage two in the 2018 Vuelta a España. The stage of 163km with plenty of hills and wind from the start in Marbella saw Valverde win the sprint atop the Alto de Guadalhorce (Cat-3) ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY).

Seven riders formed the first breakaway of the 2018 La Vuelta in the opening kilometres of stage two and extended their advantage over the first climb of the day. Alexis Gougeard (AG2r-La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Pierre Rolland (EF Education First-Drapac), Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH), Jonathan Lastras (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias) worked well together but BMC Racing Team, defending the red jersey, controlled the advantage at around three minutes for the first half of the day.

As the race entered the last 75km and the gap extended to four minutes, those interested in the stage started to emerge. Bora-Hansgrohe was the first to show their cards as they sent riders to the front to help BMC Racing Team and the gap quickly reduced to two-minutes 30seconds with 60km remaining. The gap really started to fade in the last 50km and the pressure was too much for race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing Team) and his protected leader Richie Porte as they dropped off the back.

New race leader – Kwiatowski. Pic: Getty Images

With the surviving breakaway down to two riders and the red jersey up for grabs, Team Sky put a big turn on in the final 20km to shed the front group further. A late attack by Laurens De Plus (Quickstep Floors) in the final two kilometres put those with stage ambitions on the back foot and Team Sky continued in pursuit. Valverde and Michal Kwiatowski (Team Sky) flew past De Plus in a drag race to the line with 300m to go. Kwiatowski took the final corner with 100m to go in front but Valverde came past to steal the stage. A second place was enough to move Kwiatowski into the red race leader’s jersey.

Valverde, who has got now 120 victorias as a professional competitor and reached today another legendary milestone: equalling with 97 victories, all that he has obtained bar the 23 scored as part of the Kelme outfit, a certain Miguel Indurain as the most successful rider in the 39-year history of the Abarca Sports organisation, active since 1980. Nairo Quintana, well supported by the rest of Unzué’s squad, did not have any problems either to stay with the top contenders – 9th over the line- and enters the GC top-ten. Kwiatkowski is now in the lead overall with 14″ over Alejandro.
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Alejandro Valverde: “Surprised? I am, but I’m not at the same time. I knew my legs were going to do well here. After the Tour de France, I tried to rest up as much as I could, spent a lot of time on flat roads next to the coastline in Murcia, trying to stay focused but calm and relaxed at the same time, making the right form come to me and hoping to progress over the next three weeks here in La Vuelta. The progress I followed throughout August has been proven to be the right one with this victory.

“Before the start, we already had clear instructions of going to the front with the whole team into the final circuit, because there were dangerous, narrow zones where you had to take over if you didn’t want to get caught out of position. The heat really hurt many people, I was surprised to see so many riders dropping back though. Hearing on the radio that real contenders for this win were getting out of contention, we were more motivated about seeking for this victory.

I knew the biggest rival for today was ‘Kwiato’, but couldn’t wait to just launch the sprint because De Plus was ahead of us. I waited until the last 550-600 metres, thinking about having to go on one long attack through the last few turns. I think I timed that first effort well; Kwiatkowski was like one metre behind after my move, and you could see he had taken a big effort to follow my wheel. I let him overtake me before the last turn right, because I knew that the final slopes gave me a chance to go past, and once we were on that final straight, I just launched my sprint to come out on top.”

“For the time being, we’ve already got a victory, and achieved one of the goals I had in mind coming into this Vuelta. The Tour de France just didn’t go as I expected. I didn’t feel my legs as I wanted them to. I was also eager to score a victory after two months, and coming back to winning ways in La Vuelta after missing last year’s race. La Vuelta – I love the race. The Giro is nice.

The Tour is nice. However, the Vuelta is my race. I’m a Spaniard. I love it. We’ve got off to a great start, and it’s day-by-day for us again after this. Any GC plans? I don’t rule myself out of contention at all, since I’ve shown I’m doing great and we’re just getting started, but our only leader has to be Nairo, and I can’t say I’ll stay focused at every single stage not to lose time, 100%, because it just doesn’t work like that for me in this race. There are other goals in mind. And if Nairo needs me to work for him because he’s in a position to win the Vuelta outright, I won’t hesitate to offer him a hand.”

Rohan Dennis (race leader at the start of the stage): “At the start, I didn’t feel too bad and we were riding pretty solidly. Of course, it wasn’t easy but I was feeling comfortable with the pace and I thought maybe my legs would be better than I thought. But, about two hours in, I really started to suffer and even sitting on the wheel I wasn’t feeling great. I lasted for as long as possible and I was planning on trying to help at the end if I was needed but I just had nothing left in the tank.”

“I think the wind played a big part in today’s stage and the roads were never straight or flowing so, you never got to sit in the peloton. You were always chasing or in single file going around a corner. The altitude gain wasn’t that bad but I think the terrain was the real difficulty today.”

Richie Porte: “When asked what happened and if I’m disappointed, the answer was no. I never said coming into this race that I was after the GC. The team said we would take it day by day as it’s not been a good run in from me. If you crash out of the Tour de France, you’re not straight back on your bike. Yesterday was a great day for the team and we had Rohan in the red jersey today which was great but for me personally, I knew I wasn’t going to have a great day today from the get-go. It was a tough stage for everyone I think and when you see guys lighting it up like the Spanish guys did, it’s never going to be easy. They definitely made the race hard today but we have to keep looking forward though and will see what happens as the race develops.”

Vuelta Espana: Stage 2

Stage 2
1. Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team
2. Michał Kwiatkowski Team Sky
3. Laurens De Plus Quick-Step Floors 0:03
4. Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb
5. George Bennett Team LottoNL-Jumbo
6. Tony Gallopin AG2R La Mondiale
7. Emanuel Buchmann BORA – hansgrohe
8. Rigoberto Urán Team EF Education First-Drapac
9. Nairo Quintana Movistar Team
10. Thibaut Pinot Groupama – FDJ

21. Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott @0.08
50. Dan Martin UAE-Team Emirates 1:15
52. Tao Geoghegan Hart Team Sky 1:26
81. Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team 4:04
139. Fabio Sabatini Quick-Step Floors 13:31
148. Richie Porte BMC Racing Team
149. Adam Yates Mitchelton-Scott
170. Steve Cummings Team Dimension Data

1. Michał Kwiatkowski Team Sky 04:22:40
2. Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team 00:14
3. Wilco Kelderman Team Sunweb 00:25

9. Nairo Quintana Movistar Team ,,
10. Bauke Mollema Trek – Segafredo 00:35
11. Steven Kruijswijk Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:37
12. Simon Yates Mitchelton-Scott ,,
14. Rafał Majka BORA – hansgrohe ,,
16. Thibaut Pinot Groupama – FDJ ,,
18. George Bennett Team LottoNL-Jumbo 00:45
19. Fabio Aru UAE-Team Emirates 00:47
20. Rigoberto Urán Team EF Education First-Drapac 00:48
43. Tao Geoghegan Hart Team Sky 01:50
45. Dan Martin UAE-Team Emirates 01:53
82. Vincenzo Nibali Bahrain Merida Pro Cycling Team 04:44
143. Steve Cummings Team Dimension Data 14:00
147. Adam Yates Mitchelton-Scott 14:11
155. Richie Porte BMC Racing Team 14:22



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