Vuelta stage 2: Nico steals stage, Sanchez and Sergio suffer

Stage 2: Ponteverda to Baiona. Alto Do Monte Da Groba, 177.7km

The drama was left to the last 11km of the 178km route as its sharp climb to the finish brought out the champion in one of Ireland’s favourite sons, yet left one of Spain’s golden boys with broken dreams.

Vuelta 2013 Stage 2 profile

The stage started out with a three-man break from practically kilometre zero. Greg Henderson (Lotto-Belisol), Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp) and Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural) were left to their own devices for almost the entire stage, building up a lead at one point of over 12 minutes. Astana, not wanting to defend the red jersey on the back of Janez Brajkovic, cruised safely on the front while Lampre did most of the work controlling the break.

A dastardly headwind ate away the break’s time more than the peloton so when Movistar and Cannondale started to quicken the pace about 10km from the finish, the break was doomed. With a gradient at the base of the Alto Do Monte Da Groba at a thigh-burning 11%, the blistering pace set by Movistar’s Jose Herrada, with Alejandro Valverde behind him, blew the peloton apart and had the red jersey yo-yoing off the back. (Methinks Movistar have learned much from Sky, no?)

With 2km to go, NetApp’s Leopold Konig attacked, quickly getting a gap. Responses came from Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) and they set off for the finish together. Roche torched it off and sprinted away from the other three to take a brilliant win.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Nico Roche interview

It has to be Nicolas Roche, who had the legs to stay at the front of the peloton when the Movistar hammer went down, had the wits to respond to the attack by Konig and had his timing right for a surge of speed that resulted in a fantastic win for himself and his Saxo-Tinkoff team. Chapeau!

Analysis & opinion

It’s always said that you can’t win a grand tour in the first week but you can lose it if you aren’t careful. With Nibali, Valverde and Rodriguez coming over the line together, the big losers of the day were Sky’s Sergio Henao and Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez, both of whom were unceremoniously spat out of the back of the peloton almost as soon as the final climb began, losing over two minutes to their GC rivals.

Are these time gaps insurmountable? Not necessarily. This is only the second stage and there will be opportunities to make up time this week, including the three hard days in the mountains next weekend. So if Henao and Sanchez can find their climbing legs – and make sure that they take those opportunities when they come, all is not lost. If they can’t, it’ll be a case of Sanchez looking for stage wins to fly the final flag for his Euskaltel team.

For Sky, however, it’s a bit more of a conundrum. Henao was their team leader with Rigoberto Uran riding in support. Teams don’t like to put all their firepower behind a rider who is leaving at the end of the season (taking points with him) and with Uran off to OPQS, it’ll be interesting to see how Sky plays this. Sky haven’t been the most nimble of teams when bad luck comes their way – there’s Plan A but never Plan B – so I suspect they’ll put their guys in the service of making back that time for Henao and only put their team behind Uran once it has gone well beyond the point of no return for Henao.

Nibali is in the red jersey at the moment but I don’t expect him to stay in it. It’s way too early in a very difficult Vuelta to seriously defend the jersey – he’ll want to lose it as soon as possible and get it back later in the race. He just needs to keep his rivals close to him and ensure no one slips up the road and takes a chunk of time. It’ll be interesting to see how Astana play this.

Stage 2 result

1. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) 4:37:09

2. Daniel Moreno (Katusha) +0:02

3. Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r La Mondiale) +0:06

4. Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) +0:11

5. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:12

General classification

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) 5:07:22

2. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:08

3. Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:10

4. Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:10

5. Robert Kiserlovski (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:10

6. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) +0:22

7. Ben Hermans (RadioShack-Leopard) +0:27

8. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:27

9. Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:32

10. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:32

Points classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Mountains classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Combination classification: Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

Team classification: RadioShack-Leopard.

Link: Official website

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