Germany’s John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) put in a late turn of speed to win today’s stage of the Vuelta a Espana ahead of Australia’s Allan Davis (Orica-GreenEdge) and Britain’s Ben Swift (Sky).
Run in broiling heat on rolling roads (with one categorised climb) between Pamplona and Viana, the opening road stage had ‘bunch sprint’ stamped all over it.
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With a combination of weary riders, fearful riders and others looking to save as much energy for the 11 uphill or mountain finishes which pepper this year’s route, nobody appeared to be much in the mood to try any real, race shattering heroics.
On a stage where a breakaway might have gained 10 minutes, the break of the day, featuring Katusha’s Maxim Iglinsky, Javier Chacon (Andalucia) and Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) made the best of the day pass granted them by a bunch made lethargic by the 40 degree heat.
They battered on into the hair-dryer wind and managed a maximum lead of five minutes, but nobody was convinced.
For wild card invitees Caja Rural – last in the team time trial opening stage – and Andalucia it was decent TV time if nothing else.
Chacon was dropped with 25km to go, but he would end the day in the King of the Mountains jersey for his efforts.
Sure enough, inside 10 kilometres to go the duo were caught and, although Vacansoileil’s Serguy Lagutin made a solo effort, he too was caught with around four kilometres to go and a chaotic, train-free bunch sprint ensued.
It was almost as though nobody had the energy to organise themselves, though honourable mention should go to Orica-GreenEdge and Argos-Shimano who, ultimately, won the day in the formidable shape of Degenkolb who came from behind Swift and Davis to win by the best part of a length.
The pre-race general classification favourites (Juan Cobo, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome) all finished safely in the bunch, with Movistar’s Jonathan Castroviejo retaining the overall lead.
However, with stage three taking the race into the mountains for the first time, there should be some changes and clarifications of form.
Vuelta a Espana 2012 stage two: Pamplona to Viana 181km
1. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano in 4-38-40
2. Allan Davis (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
3. Ben Swift (GB) Team Sky
4. Elia Viviani (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale
5. Klaas Lodewyck (Bel) BMC
6. Vincente Reynes (Spa) Lotto
7. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre
8. Gianni Meersman (Bel) Lotto
9. Manuel Cardoso (Por) Caja Rural
10. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Radioshack-Nissan all same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa) Movistar 4-57-31
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1 second
3. Javier Moreno (Spa) Movistar
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
5. Benat Intxausti (Spa) Movistar
6. Juan Jose Cobo (Spa) Movistar at 4 seconds
7. Dennis van Winden (Hol) Rabobank at 10 seconds
8. Niki Terpstra (Hol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
9. Kevin De Weert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep
10. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) BMC all same time
24. Chris Froome (Team Sky) at 12 seconds
34. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank Tinkoff) at 14 seconds
Riders needed plenty of fluids throughout the stage
Riders stuff blocks of ice down their jerseys in an effort to keep cool
Sky’s leader Chris Froome hides in the wheels on the flat stage
John Degenkolb wins stage two with Ben Swift in third
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