Stage 2: Pamplona to Viana, 181.4km
The boys were feeling hot, hot, hot as the temperature hit a rubber-melting 39ºC. An early break of Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) and Javier Chacon (Andalucia) were allowed to get a maximum lead of five minutes. Ignatiev took the honours on the two intermediate sprints while Chacon secured the first blue polka dot jersey of the race before dropping back to the peloton. The other two were caught at 12km. A last-ditch dig in the final 6km by Sergey Lagutin (Vacansoleil-DCM) didn’t get far and the boys lined up for a bunch sprint. Ben Swift (Sky) and Allan Davis (Orica-GreenEDGE) were first to make the jump but John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) flew past and took the stage.
VeloVoices rider of the day
John Degenkolb is my rider of the day. I’m a big fan of the Argonauts and, after a very disappointing Tour de France where their main man Marcel Kittel had to abandon due to illness, it’s good to see they’ve come into this Vuelta with a fighting spirit.
It’s hard to believe how hot it is out there – a top temperature of 39ºC today, the commissaires waived the 30km rule of not handing out bottles. There was a lot of talk about teams who may have hotels with no air conditioning. I wonder just how much impact the overheated conditions will have on some of the riders.
We got an early glimpse of how the competition between the sprinters – in the absence of most of the top men – may pan out over the next three weeks. Sky’s Ben Swift outgunned Degenkolb two stages to one at the recent Tour of Poland, but Sky are clearly intending to apply the same team strategy which won them the Tour: protect their GC rider (in this case Chris Froome) at all costs, and leave their sprinter to fend pretty much for himself. But whereas Mark Cavendish has the speed and nous to do just that, here Swift found himself on the front too early and was swallowed up in the final 100 metres. Orica-GreenEDGE have no such problems with their strong lead-out train, and in Allan Davis they possess a veteran fast-man who knows his way around a bunch sprint. Degenkolb exhibited a prodigious final burst here and, like Orica, Argos-Shimano’s focus is also on sprint wins. These three, plus perhaps RadioShack’s Daniele Bennati, FDJ-BigMat’s Nacer Bouhanni and Liquigas’ Elia Viviani, are likely to feature at the sharp end of most sprint finishes.
Although there are quite a few riders within ten seconds of the top spot, there was no change in the GC, with Movistar keeping both defending champion Juan Jose Cobo and race leader Jonathan Castroviejo out of danger. Javier Chacon‘s first polka dot jersey gives his team Andalucia some good press but with a mountain stage tomorrow, I suspect he’ll not keep it long. Degenkolb took the points jersey with his win today.
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