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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Monday, August 26, 2019

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2018 Tour de France | 2018 Giro d'Italia

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent. - Edmund Burke

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Vuelta a España stage two team reports

We'll start with stage winner Nairo Quintana's Team Movistar:

The intelligence and talent of Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) floated back to the surface once again as he made all the right moves into the final section of a demanding stage two in La Vuelta 2019 -200km from Benidorm to Calpe, with the steep Puig Llorença (Cat-2) as decisive point- to take the day’s win and reassert his condition as one of the biggest contenders of the race.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana takes stage two. Sirotti photo

The Telefónica-backed squad’s hard work was visible up to the foot of the last climb, with Arcas, Erviti and Oliveira protecting Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, who showed great legs with several accelerations towards the top of the hill. After the summit, and from a front split only consisting of about 20 riders, Nairo jumped off the front together with Urán (EF1), Roche (SUN), Nieve (MTS), Roglic (TJV) and Aru (UAD), leaving behind the other favourites and building a 40″ gap. With 3km to go, the front group started to think about the stage win – the exact moment when Quintana launched his final attack.

The acceleration by the ‘Cóndor of Boyacá’, 3km from the end, left his breakaway companions behind and served him as launchpad for his 8th Grand Tour stage win, as well as the Movistar Team’s 20th victory in 2019 and a significant improvement in the overall standings: Nairo is now 2nd in the GC, just 2″ behind Nicolas Roche (SUN), with Valverde -10th today- in twelfth place, 49″ down. Two theorically sprinter-suited stages on Monday and Tuesday will now preceed the first real mountain test on Wednesday, atop the Javalambre ski station.

REACTION / Nairo Quintana:
“It was kind of a different finish, and a very beautiful one. I had never won like that so far in my career – there’s always a first time, isn’t there? A special day for me, and one that I really needed to happen. It was also a massive boost for the team, which deserved this from so long. We’ve been working all day, in great harmony, with Alejandro and all of our team-mates doing so well – and we got that prize we deserved.

“We didn’t expect the front split in the Puig Llorença to be such a small group – we expected to have a sprint stage, maybe with a quite restricted peloton, but still with some sprinters there. Alejandro and I tried to make those moves after the top, going one rider at a time, and once that six-man group went away, I tried to keep taking turns so the pace didn’t stop. I found a moment to attack and didn’t hesitate nor looked behind: if it sticked, great, and if it didn’t, at least I would have been trying.

“We’re only two days into this race; there’s so much still left, we must not get too optimistic with this win. It’s a joy we will surely enjoy, because of the morale it gives you, and it will surely make the team ride calmer and stronger. But there’s all mountains still to cover in this Vuelta.”

Here's the report from new GC leader Nicolas Roche's Team Sunweb:

After yesterday’s team time trial, the first road stage of the Vuelta saw the peloton faced with a 200 kilometre long stage from Benidorm to Calpe. A breakaway of four escaped early into the gruelling parcours, quickly building up a large advantage over the bunch.

However, the peloton was always in control and as the terrain continued to roll the gap to those ahead diminished. Everything was back together as the race hit the foot slopes of the brutally steep Alto de Puig Llorença, which averaged almost ten percent in gradient for three kilometres. A fast pace saw the bunch explode and an elite group of 19 riders crested the climb together with around 25 kilometres to go.

On one of the many small drags that punctuated the run in, Nicholas Roche attacked and drew clear another five riders. The six of them worked well together and slowly increased their advantage on the group behind. Approaching the finale in Calpe, Quintana took advantage of a slight stall in pace and attacked the group, going clear and just holding on for the stage win. Roche delivered a great kick to the line, winning the sprint for second place, and with it took enough bonus seconds to move into the race leader’s jersey.

Nicolas Roche

Nicolas Roche in his new red jersey. Sirotti photo

“It’s an amazing feeling. To be back in the leaders jersey at a Grand Tour is incredible; I’m speechless,” beamed Roche at the finish. “I thought this morning that a group of around 30-40 riders would arrive at the line together and fight for the win but it turned out to be an even harder day. I know these roads off by heart, we spend five weeks of the year here. I knew if we attacked on the run in to Calpe then people would look at each other. On the radio we were thinking about the stage, knowing that if I took the stage win I would be in red too. We tried to play it smart going into the finish but Quintana went at the perfect time and I didn’t want to drag everyone with me if I went after him. To take the leader’s jersey is incredible; I’m going to enjoy tonight and tomorrow on the bike.”

Team Sunweb coach Luke Roberts added: “The first goal for today was to make sure Wilco was safe. We also had in mind that we were close in contention for the leader’s jersey, so we wanted to keep our eyes on breakaways from the beginning and any dangerous attacks at the end. Nico went with the group of six which was a great move. We were hoping Nico would be able to pick up the stage win after his close calls at the Tour. He focused on that, knowing that the jersey would come with the stage win. He narrowly missed out on the win but it was really great that he could pick up that red leader’s jersey, so we’re all pretty happy here.”

And here's the report from third-place Primoz Roglic's Team Jumbo-Visma:

Team Jumbo-Visma has shown resilience in the second stage of the Vuelta a España. After the setback of yesterday's time loss, the team of Addy Engels and Grischa Niermann opened up the attacks in the final. Primoz Roglic rode away with five others on the final climb and sprinted to third place. In the overall standings, the Slovenian has moved up to sixth place.

Primoz Roglic

Primoz Roglic just after signing into stage two. Sirotti photo.

In the tough stage to Calpe, Team Jumbo-Visma showed plenty of fighting spirit. After the early breakaway was reeled in, Roglic gathered important bonus seconds at the intermediate sprint. On the final climb, George Bennett was one of the first to attack. He was later joined by his teammate Roglic. Just before the top the decisive move of six with Roglic broke clear. The six eventually sprinted for the stage win and gained 37 seconds on the chasing group containing the red jersey as well as Bennett. Unfortunately Steven Kruijswijk suffered from pain in his knee after yesterday's crash and lost 1’43”.

"It was really tough today," Roglic explained. “In the end, I no longer had the legs to go for the stage victory. Today, I didn't really suffer from the crash and I am very pleased with this third place and with the time we have taken back. After the Giro d’Italia I haven't done a race apart from the national championship, so I didn’t know how my shape would be. This is encouraging and certainly gives confidence."

Sports director Grischa Niermann has seen that his leader has done some good business in the GC. “It was a difficult stage today and the pace was very fast. As expected, the course exploded on the last climb. Many had thought that it was going to end in a sprint with a small group, but the stage was tougher than expected. As a team we rode very well all day and George and Primoz were really good. Primoz was also motivated after yesterday. We can say that we are back in the game after yesterday's disappointment.”

On the other hand Niermann saw Kruijswijk losing valuable time. “Steven had a bad day today and had a lot of problems with his knee. He crashed hard into the barriers yesterday. Of course we would have liked Steven to have been in a different position after two days, but his GC certainly isn't over yet," Niermann concluded.

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