Dutchman moves into race lead with stage victory

Wout Poels (Team Sky) won the second stage of the Ruta del Sol, taking victory on the race’s one major summit finish to move into the race lead.

Poels was part of an elite group which formed on the three kilometre final climb of the Alto de Allanadas, taking two attempts to finally get the stage win.

His first attack with a kilometre to go saw him chase down another late move from Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), before he accelerated again with 300m to go to take the victory ahead of Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Wellens.

Meanwhile Chris Froome (Team Sky), riding his first race of the season, crossed the line in seventh place, 27 seconds down on his team-mate after spending much of the final climb yo-yoing off the back off the front group.

How it happened

The peloton enjoyed perfect weather as they rolled out from Otura at the start of the second stage of the Ruta del Sol, with nine riders getting in the breakaway and opening up a large gap that approached eight minutes at one point.

In the move were Alvaro Cuadros (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Przemyslaw Kasperkiewicz (Delko Marselle Provence KTM), Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo), Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Aaron Verwilst (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Sho Hatsuyama (Nippo-Vini Fantini), Jeroen Meijers (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij) and Enrique Sanz (Euskadi-Murias).

The gap remained steady for much of the day as Astana, Team Sky, and Movistar shared the workload at the front of the peloton, before the Kazakh team steadily raised the pace to bring the gap below three minutes for the first time with 25km remaining.

By that time the rolling terrain had seen the break reduced to just three riders, with only Rubio, Gougeard, and Eenkhoorn remaining out front.

However although Astana’s pace wasn’t bringing the gap down all that quickly, with the trio out front still enjoying a lead of more than two minutes with nine kilometres remaining, it was enough to see overnight leader Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) dropped as the road began to swing upwards.

The rising roads were also taking their toll on the break, with Eenkhoorn the first to be dropped, before Rubio went on alone, going into the final 4.5km with a one minute advantage over the bunch.

The climb started in earnest with three kilometres remaining and immediately saw a move from Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), forcing Team Sky to take up the chase in the peloton and keep the Danish climber hanging just a few metres off the front.

With Fuglsang providing a tempting carrot, Mikel Landa (Movistar) was the next to attack with Tim Wellens, before Wout Poels moved across.

Those accelerations were enough to see Rubio caught with 1.8km to go, before the pace slackened to allow a few more riders to get back into contention, including Chris Froome, before Wellens launched an attack of his own.

The Belgian may not have had the smoothest style, but it was effective as Jakob Fuglsang led Astana team-mate Luis Leon Sanchez at the head of the chase, keeping Wellens locked at 10 seconds up the mountain.

With the gap not coming down, Wout Poels launched his big attack, quickly reeling in Wellens but bringing Sanchez with him, before Landa, Fuglsang, and Marc Soler worked their way back, before Fuglsang went once again.

However Poels still had more to give, and launched one more move ahead of the final corner, this time opening a sizeable gap on the rest of the GC contenders and holding off Sanchez to take the win.

The Ruta del Sol continues on Friday with a 166.1km stage from Mancha Real to Herrera that looks destined to finish with a bunch sprint.

Results

Ruta del Sol 2018, stage two: Otura to La Guardia de Jaén (Alto de Allanadas), 140km

1. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, in 3-38-04
2. Luis León Sanchez (Esp) Astana, at 2 secs
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4 secs
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 17 secs
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 27 secs
8. Mikel Bizkarra (Esp) Euskadi-Murias, at 34 secs
9. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 38 secs
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time

General classification after stage two

1. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky, in 3-38-04
2. Luis León Sanchez (Esp) Astana, at 2 secs
3. Tim Wellens (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time
4. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 4 secs
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at same time
6. Marc Soler (Esp) Movistar, at 17 secs
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at 27 secs
8. Mikel Bizkarra (Esp) Euskadi-Murias, at 34 secs
9. Amaro Antunes (Por) CCC Sprandi Polkowice, at 38 secs
10. Jelle Vanendert (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at same time