Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep) won stage two of the Vuelta a España, defeating Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18) and Magnus Cort Nielsen in a bunch sprint.
The overall lead remains in the hands of Team Sky, however passes within the team from Peter Kennaugh to Michal Kwiatkowski, whose fourth place finish was enough to see him leapfrog the Briton into first overall.
>> Subscribe to Cycling Weekly this Autumn and save 35%. Enjoy the luxury of home delivery and never miss an issue <<
It was an eventful finale, with Sergey Lagutin (Katusha) and Ryan Anderson (Direct Energie) both succumbing to crashes. Thankfully both managed to recover and finish the stage.
Etixx-Quick Step however managed to time their lead-out to perfection, ensuring Meersman was second in line with a few hundred metres remaining, and giving him a clear run to the finish when he opened up his sprint.
There were a few attacks in the final 40km, with riders perhaps sensing an opportunity for a successful breakaway due to the lack of big name sprints.
Philippe Gilbert (BMC) made a solo move on an unclassified climb with 40km to go, and quickly managed to bridge the gap to the day’s three man break of Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Laurent Pichon (FDJ) and Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18). The Belgian injected some energy into the group, but they were all brought back with 16km to go.
Just minutes later another attack with time from Thiago Machado (Katusha) prompted a flurry of moves off the front of the peloton, but they were not given any leeway by the peloton and everything came back together for a bunch sprint.
Despite the lack of big name sprinters taking part, there was a concerted effort to ensure a bunch finish, with some teams fancying their chances in a sprint, and others like Sky and Tinkoff looking after their GC riders.
It was Dimension Data who led the peloton in the final kilometre, presumably working for their sprinter Kristian Sbaragli. However they made their move too early and were swamped on the finishing straight as Etixx took over.
Overall it was a quiet day at the Vuelta, with the riders arriving at the finish line later than expected having ridden very slowly early on. It took Gilbert’s attack to enliven the racing, with the only action being the three-man sprint contested by the breakaway group for the King of the Mountains points, won by Pichon.
He’ll wear the polka-dot jersey on tomorrow’s stage, with Kwiatkowski in red and Meersman in green.
Vuelta a España 2016 stage two, Ourense to Baiona (160.8k)
1 Gianni Meersman (Bel) Etixx-QuickStep at 4-16-39
2 Michael Schwarzmann (Ger) Bora-Argon 18
3 Magnus Cort Nielsen (Den) Orica-BikeExchange
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky
5 Jonas van Genechten (Bel) IAM Cycling
6 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Dimension Data
7 Niccolo Bonifazio (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
8 Jhonatan Restrepo (Col) Katusha
9 Jean-Pierre Drucker (Lux) BMC
10 Lorenzo Manzin (Fra) FDJ all at same time
General classification after stage two
1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Sky in 4-47-16
2 José Joaquín Rojas (Esp) Movistar
3 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
4 Chris Froome (GBr) Sky
5 Salvatore Puccio (Ita) Sky
6 Peter Kennaugh (GBr) Sky
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar
8 Leopold Konig (Cze) Sky
9 Rubén Fernández (Esp) Movistar
10 Jonathan Castroviejo (Esp) Movistar all at same time