Michael Matthews holds on to overall lead

Michael Albasini (Orica-Scott) took an unexpected victory on the second stage of the Tour of the Basque Country.

Albasini took advantage of a fast, downhill final few hundred metres to launch an early sprint, holding off Maximiliano Richeze (Quick-Step Floors) and Sean De Bie (Lotto-Soudal).

Albasini’s former team-mate Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) was fourth, holding on to his overall lead that he took after winning stage one.

The day’s breakaway consisted of two riders, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural) and Luis Angel Maté (Cofidis), who enjoyed a maximum advantage of four-and-a-half minutes around the mid point of the 173km stage, before Team Sunweb, working for race leader Michael Matthews, began to eat away at their lead.

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By the time the race entered the final 20km their lead had been cut to under a minute, with the only drama up until that point being a longer-than-expected chase for Alberto Contador after the Trek-Segafredo leader suffered a mechanical.

The catch was eventually made with 16km to go, with Team Sky and Quick-Step setting a hard pace on the front of the peloton.

A head-crosswind in the final 10km ensured a stressful finale, with many teams battling for control, and Movistar and Orica-Scott setting a fast pace on a short ramp with six kilometres to go that saw a number of riders dropped.

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However it was the downhill run to the line that would decide the stage, with Albasini putting himself close to the front of affairs as the peloton went under the flamme rouge.

The descent to the line encouraged a couple of riders to attempt to go long, but it was Albasini who timed it best, opening a slight gap with 300m remaining and holding off his rivals around the final corner with just 100m to go to take his first victory of the season.

Results

Tour of the Basque Country 2017, stage two: Pamplona to Eltziego (173km)

1. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-Scott, in 4-35-22
2. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
3. Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
5. Paul Martens (Ger) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
6. Matej Mohoric (Slo) Team UAE Emirates
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
8. Rudy Molard (Fra) FDJ
9. Manuele Mori (Ita) Team UAE Emirates
10. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky, all at same time

General classification after stage two

1. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, in 8-20-29
2. Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) Quick-Step Floors
3. Sean De Bie (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team
6. Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Matej Mohoric (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
8. Patrick Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Team Sky
10. Anthony Roux (Fra) FDJ, all at same time