Quick-Step Floors atone for their Tour de France wind errors
It was a shock turn of events, given how it is universally accepted that the Belgian team are the world’s best when it comes to riding in the wind.
On stage two of the Vuelta, though, they were back to their best, being the instigators and causing carnage.
The crosswinds didn’t cause a split until 2.5km to go, but it was a clever move by Quick-Step, a well-thought out one that was perfectly executed.
As the peloton swept around a roundabout with 2,500m remaining, Quick-Step had three riders on the front. They powered on, with a side wind from the left, causing echelons across the field.
Yves Lampaert was allowed to attack and he was able to solo to the finish and into the red leader’s jersey. Once again, Quick-Step are the masters of the wind.
A nervous peloton means no break
You hear it all the time during a Grand Tour: the opening week are a nervous affair and though a rider cannot win the race during the first seven days, they can certainly lose it.
And crosswinds on today’s stage meant that the peloton was a cagey pack, unwillingly to let a break go on what would otherwise have been a straight forward sprint stage involving a cat-and-mouse chase which was brought back in time for the fast men.
Trek-Segafredo, at 75km to go, attempted to split the bunch first but to no avail. Chris Froome had a mechanical and was able to rejoin swiftly, but even just collecting bottles from a car risked losing position.
At 30km to go, with a cross-tailwind blowing across the race, the peloton stretched out and split, a break briefly formed. But the bunch, jointly led by the GC and sprint teams, worked together to prevent the the escapees building an advantage.
Nibali and Chaves claw back time on Froome
The GC men all spoke before the stage about expecting splits, and for the most part, it looked as if they wouldn’t be proven right.
That was until Quick-Step ignited the race. And, 22 seconds down on Chris Froome after yesterday’s team time trial, Vincenzo Nibali was hell-bent on making sure he didn’t lose any more seconds to the Team Sky man.
Instead, he actually gained time, finishing in the first 10 riders and putting eight seconds into Froome to reduce his deficit to 14 seconds to the Brit.
Esteban Chaves of Orica-Scott also finished five seconds better than Froome. It’s only minimal seconds, but they all really do count.
Adam Blythe finishes third
It would be a stretch to call the finale a sprint tussle, but the riders immediately behind Lampaert were his teammate Matteo Trentin and Adam Blythe.
The Yorkshireman, riding for Aqua Blue Sport in their debut Grand Tour, rode to third place, his best ever stage result in a three-week stage race.
The 2016 British champion is a maverick rider, immensely talented but perhaps guilty of not being as successful as he maybe should be.
It is a superb result for the Irish team. They will be targeting getting into breakaways throughout the race, but with Blythe in this form, maybe a stage win is possible.
Even on sprint days the sprinters can’t win
There’s a reason that the world’s sprinters tend to prepare for the World Championships by racing the Tour of Britain as opposed to the Vuelta a España – it’s just too tough.
With so few sprint stages – there are possibly five remaining – Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel and André Greipel all tend to steer clear of the Spanish national tour.
How annoying, then, that on stage two, one of the few sprint stages, the men with the fastest turn of speed were unable to win, foiled by a rider who counts six professional wins to his name.
It turns out that even on stages reserved for them, sprinters don’t always get their moment in the limelight at the Vuelta.