So near but so far. Roger Hammond’s debut in major stage racing got off to a strong start with a third place in the Vuelta a Espana’s first bunch sprint of the race.
The Cervélo pro made a stunning final charge for the line at the end of the pancake-flat 203 kilometre run across northern Holland that was almost rewarded with a stage win.
Hammond had to settle for third behind German Gerald Ciolek (Milram), and the Briton said afterwards he was half-pleased and half-annoyed with how the stage had panned out.
“I was trying to do the sprint for [team-mate] Dominique Rollin and look after the GC guys and make sure they were well organised for the cross-winds, which is kind of my speciality,” Hammond told Cycling Weekly.
“Then the final was just absolute chaos, now I understand why they look more organised in the one-day races because here there’s GC guys trying not to lose time, 20 guys that can’t sprint trying for it, and 10 guys that can, actually going for it.”
“Then all of a sudden I just popped up with 500 metres to go on [Sylvain] Chavanel’s wheel, shouted to Dominique but he lost my wheel.”
“So I hit out with 50 metres to go but that was just too late, I still had something left, and it was a pity because I was going faster and faster.”
Overall, Cancellara still leads, but several favourites lost time in a late split. Former Tour of Italy winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Spain’s Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) all lost 18 seconds.
Enormous crowds once again greeted the Vuelta on its second day in Holland, with Dutch fans festooned in red and yellow Spanish flags lining the route once again in huge numbers.
“So far having the Tour of Spain here has been a huge success,” Cancellara said later, and it would be hard to disagree.
Monday’s 189.7km stage three takes the riders from Zutphen to Venlo, both in the Netherlands, with a section mid-way through the stage in Germany. It’s another flat stage, and should play into the hands of the sprinters.
Full report and photos to come…
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Stage two, Assen-Emmen, 203.7km
1. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram in 4-43-12
2. Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas
3. Roger Hammond (GB) Cervelo
4. Andre Greipel (Ger) Columbia-HTC
5. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
6. Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step
9. Davide Vigano (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
10. Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux
Overall classification after stage two
1. Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Saxo Bank in 4-48-32
2. Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram at 8sec
3. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick Step at 9sec
4. Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream at 12sec
5. Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil at 14sec
6. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas at 16sec
7. David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo Galicia at 18sec
8. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas at 18sec
9. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 18sec
10. Bert Grabsch (Ger) Columbia-HTC at 19sec
David Millar on stage two
Gerald Ciolek (left) wins his first Vuelta stage with Britain’s Roger Hammond (third right) in third
Fabian Cancellara stays in the race lead
a Espana 2009, stage one photo gallery by Graham
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Cycling Weekly’s full coverage, the hub
Vuelta a Espana 2009: Who will win?
Vinokourov back with Astana for the Vuelta
Britain and Ireland well represented in Vuelta
2009 Vuelta route favours climbers
Cycling Weekly’s Rider Profiles: Index