Miguel Angel Lopez doubled Astana’s stage win tally at the Tour of the Alps after out-sprinting the race’s top climbers on the summit finish of stage two of the race.
Astana did lose the race lead however, with best young rider Ivan Sosa taking the fuschia jersey after race leader Pello Bilbao was dropped on the final climb as Sosa took third place on the stage.
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The 8km finishing climb of Pampeago didn’t lend itself to attacks with its steep gradients, but the pace set by Sky at the front was enough to see the likes of Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) and George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) put into trouble along with the race leader.
Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky) was well involved in the front group after attacking over the flamme rouge, but was only able to finish fourth behind second place Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and then Sosa in third as a the lead group of six sprinted for the line.
How it happened
A brave band of six got away early on the 145.5km day, including Quentin Jauregui (Ag2r La Mondiale), Stephan Rabitsch (Felbermayr – Simplon Wels), Oscar Rodriguez (Euskadi-Murias), Marco Frapporti (Androni-Sidermec), Omer Goldstein (Israel Cycling Academy) and Jacopo Mosca (Wilier Tiestina).
With the difficult final climb on the cards, the peloton were happy to let a gap of nearing five minutes be reached and for the break to compete for the mountain points over the first category climb with 51km done.
But that gap gradually closed down thanks primarily to the work of the race leader’s team Astana and Pinot’s FDJ.
With riders beginning to fall away from the lead group, the break really began to fall apart completely as they hit a rise with just over 16.5km to go, with just three riders remaining in Jauregui, Rabitsch and Frapporti at 2-30 to the bunch.
They still had 1-45 at the bottom of the climb with 8km to go, with Jauregui quickly going solo to try and take an ambitious victory ahead of some elite climbers.
FDJ rode at the front of the bunch as they hit the climb as Sky sat towards the back with Froome, and the last of the breakers was finally caught with 4km to go.
Sky then began to set a strong pace with around 3km to go, but Jan Hirt (Astana) and Riccardo Zoidl (Felbermayr – Simplon Wels) were the first to try to move off the front of the bunch, but were quickly caught thanks to the work of Sky and Kenny Elissonde in particular.
That pace began to put riders in trouble, with race leader Pello Bilbao, Fabio Aru and George Bennett struggling in the final 2km to hold the leaders.
As Froome let the last of his team-mates drop off, he attacked through the flamme rouge with Pinot, Lopez, Sosa, Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) and Giulio Ciccone (Bardiani) the only ones able to follow.
Pozzovivo then went shortly after the Sky man was caught and was immediately pursued by Froome, who couldn’t close the gap to the Italian.
Lopez then pushed on to catch Pozzovivo, with the others following his wheel, but that move put Froome in trouble.
He was able to get back on to the group as they approached the finish though, and Pozzovivo led out the sprint with Froome then the first to launch on the right side of the rode.
The four-time Tour de France winner had clearly spent his energy by this point, and there was nothing he or Pinot and Sosa could do to stop Lopez, who held his sprint ahead of the group to the line,
He was followed in by Pinot, then Sosa with a small gap back to Froome in fourth. 20-year-old Sosa takes over the overall lead thanks to his third place time bonus, leading Pinot in second and Lopez in third, both at six seconds.
Wednesday’s stage three will see another difficult mountain day of 138.3km, albeit with a downhill run towards the finish in Merano.
Tour of the Alps 2018, stage three: Lavarone – Fiemme/Alpe di Pampeago (145.5km)
1 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, in 3-56-30
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
3 Ivan Sosa (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
4 Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
6 Giulio Ciccone (Ita) Bardiani CSF
7 Jan Hirt (Cze) Astana Pro Team
8 Ben O’Connor (Aus) Dimension Data
9 Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
General classification after stage two
1 Ivan Sosa (Col) Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec
2 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 6s
3 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 6s