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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 22, 2016

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Friendship is the shadow of the evening, which increases with the setting sun of life. - Jean de La Fontaine

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Vuelta a España team reports

Team Sky seems to be doing everything right. Here's their news.

A strong fourth place finish on stage two saw Michal Kwiatkowski ride into the race lead at the Vuelta a Espana. The Pole unleashed his fast finish into Baiona to secure a top-five in the sprint, and in the process moved into the red jersey courtesy of stage placings.

With the foundations laid by a winning start in the team time trial on Saturday, Kwiatkowski inherited the jersey from team-mate Pete Kennaugh as Team Sky set about defending their slender race lead.

Riding up front as a unit, the team were well positioned and able to dodge a pair of late crashes in the final kilometres. Kennaugh, Chris Froome, Salvatore Puccio and Leopold Konig all crossed the line safely in the lead group to retain their top-10 places, with all 10 leading riders sitting on the same time as a thrilled Kwiatkowski.

Team Sky took it up early out of Ourense, honouring the red jersey on the shoulders of Kennaugh. A three-man move were able to carve out a gap of over four minutes but there was no panic in the peloton, with Trek-Segafredo and Giant-Alpecin eventually adding firepower to the gradual chase. David Lopez and Christian Knees took turns on the front, while late on Ian Boswell and Michal Golas led the line as the speed picked up.

Despite Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) attacking to bridge across to the break, the race came back together with 15km to go to set up a fast finish.

Team Sky

Sky leads the team classification

After the stage Kwiatkowski paid tribute to the selfless riding of his team-mate Pete Kennaugh. He said: "I had the opportunity to get the red jersey and it's an incredible feeling. It's one of the nicest starts to a race I've ever had - winning the team time trial in a Grand Tour with Team Sky is incredible. I'm really thankful to Pete that he gave me this opportunity to sprint in today's final, and to go for the bonifications and also the red jersey. Thanks to the team for making it possible.

"Two kilometres before the final he asked me if I wanted to sprint and I accepted. He was up there in the mix and he led me out. We were sure that Chris was safe and he was up there in the front of the group and avoided the crash, so there was no risk that he would lose time.

"We knew that (Jose Joaquin) Rojas could sprint for bonifications on today's stage and he was one of the guys who could take the red jersey. I was looking at him before the finish but I decided to sprint for it. We didn't want to give the red jersey away for free, as I think we deserve it after such a ride yesterday.

"Tomorrow we have a pretty hard summit finish. We came here with one goal for this Vuelta a Espana with Chris Froome. Let's hope we can put him in the right position to gain some time, or certainly not lose time, in the GC."

This came from Tinkoff:

After yesterday’s opening team time trial, the second stage of the Vuelta a España was decided in a bunch sprint, but not without its difficulties. Two crashes near the front of the race had to be negotiated and avoided before the team could safely deliver Alberto Contador to the line.

The only real test of the stage was an 8km, third category climb cresting after 80km, but with the day’s escape established out front, and average gradients of between 2-3% the peloton was not troubled and focused on a fast finish. At the end of the day, Alberto was the team’s first rider home in 47th position.

“The boys did well today to keep Alberto out of trouble, and everyone stayed safe and did a good job,” Sport Director Steven De Jongh told us after the stage. “It was a hot day and the had to work together – Sergio [Paulinho] did a good job with the bidons and the other guys worked well so we can look ahead to tomorrow.”

Alberto told us after the finish: "This type of finish is always complicated. The pace is very fast, there isn't much space and everybody wants to be at the front. As a result, crashes take place but on the other hand, tactically, you have to position yourself in the front because otherwise, you can lose some very valuable seconds.

Alberto Contador

Alberto Contador heads to the start of stage 2

“As I said, I will take the race day-by-day and stay calm. We saw yesterday that there are stronger teams than ours. They built a big advantage and it will be difficult to overcome it. Tomorrow, we will see how we do and after the stage we will make an assessment.

“I felt well today but it is true it was a very straightforward stage which makes it difficult to draw any conclusions. Tomorrow's stage might come early in the race for the riders but not for the fans and spectators and at the end of the day this is all about them."

The stage was dominated by a small, three rider breakaway that spent the majority of the stage plugging away out front, building a few minutes’ advantage before they were gradually reeled back in. One rider attacked out of the main group to join them but the peloton was always in control and inside of 15km to race, the front was all back together.

Some late attacks threatened to break the sprinters’ teams’ rhythm, but everything was together in the final stages, setting up the first sprint of the race. The first of two crashes came near the front of the peloton as riders touched wheels, bringing one rider down, before another fell within sight of the finish. However, as they had done all day, the Tinkoff jerseys were safe and sound, and ready to fight on tomorrow’s tough uphill finish.

“Tomorrow we already have the first climbing challenge of the race with a steep climb in the final so it will be interesting to see who is where,” De Jongh continued. The third stage of the race takes riders from Marín to Mirador de Ízaro, with a third category hill-top finish. There are also two more climbs to tackle on the run-in, with the second category Alto Das Paxareiras summiting with just over 20km to race.

And here's LottoNL-Jumbo's news:

Steven Kruijswijk came through the second stage of the Vuelta a España without problems today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s front man had an easy day and was supported by his team-mates to stay in front during the final part of the race. Gianni Meersman (Etixx - Quick Step) won the stage in a bunch sprint.

“It was an easy day,” Sports Director Jan Boven said. “The race was controlled by the sprinters’ teams and that was a good scenario for us. So we came through the day without any problems and got our chance to focus on the final part of it. The guys did it quite well. Steven Kruijswijk was always in a good position, together with Bram Tankink and Jos van Emden. Enrico Battaglin got his chance to sprint today, but he lost his position due to a crash at the final roundabout of the race. He came back in front too late to have a real chance and finished 17th.”

Steven Kruijswijk agreed that he had an easy day. “Until the final 25 kilometres, it was an easy stage,” he added. “From that moment, Jos, Bram and Martijn Keizer held me in front. I was at the place I needed to be.

“Tomorrow, the race finishes uphill already. I’m not familiar with this climb, but Robert Gesink told me that it’s very steep. That means we just have to give it our all.”

Here's Etixx-Quick Step's justifiably happy posting:

Not even a crash-marred finish could stop Gianni Meersman from taking his biggest career win.

Meersman seized the day in the Vuelta a España and won stage 2 in the town of Baiona, which was making its return to the race after three years. The Belgian, riding the Spanish Grand Tour for the fifth time in his career, produced a very fast finish in the Galician municipality, capitalizing on the excellent work of his Etixx – Quick-Step teammates, who protected him in the closing kilometers and brought him to the front in an ideal position.

Before coming to the start of the Vuelta a España, Gianni polished his form in two short stage races, Tour de Wallonie and Vuelta a Burgos, and even though a win eluded him, he credited those events as having an important role in his preparation for the season’s final Grand Tour.

Gianni Meersman

Gianni Meersman wins stage 2

“Wallonie and Burgos were the two races that I needed to step up my game and be at 100%. In the past weeks, I was feeling better and better by the day and knew that I will come at the start of the Vuelta in a very good condition. This stage was my primary goal and to take it, after a superb work of the team, gives me a really incredible feeling”, said a beaming Gianni, the 85th Belgian rider to notch up a victory in the race.

Sunday's finish was a hectic one, but things turned out to be even more crazy due to some tricky corners and crashes which occurred in the last two kilometers. Escorted by his teammates, 30-year-old Gianni Meersman avoided any trouble and bided his time, starting the sprint from an excellent position, his fast legs and perfect timing bringing Etixx – Quick-Step its sixth Grand Tour win of the season.

“Not having the top sprinters here means things are more difficult to control, because everybody is aware of the fact there is a chance to pull it off. This leads all the time to huge stress and a nervous finale. Fortunately, I had the guys with me in the last two kilometers and they did a marvelous job. Styby worked hard, then Yves protected me from the wind and I could go with 200 meters left. I want to thank the boys and at the same time to dedicate this victory to my wife and my daughter”, an excited Gianni concluded at the end of the stage which sent him to the top of the points standings.

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