Sam Bennett (Bora-Hansgrohe) won Stage 2 of the 2022 Vuelta a España from a bunch sprint after a fairly hectic end to a fast stage.
He'd been reported to be off form and lacking in confidence, but looked to have plenty of both as he celebrated his win on a flat stage in the Netherlands.
Tim Merlier (Alpecin-Deceuninck) had been the favourite for the day, and his team had ridden throughout, but some tussling in the bunch put him out of position and he couldn't get on terms with the Irishman.
Past World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) finished between them for second on the stage.
HOW IT HAPPENED
On a flat day in the Netherlands on Stage 2 of the 2022 Vuelta a España, you would have expected a formulaic day of breakaway-hold-chase-catch-sprint. However, that wasn't quite the way things went.
Deciding, or being told, they wanted a day in the breakaway were Julius van den Berg (EF Education-EasyPost), Thibault Guernalec (Arkea-Samsic), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Pau Miquel (Kern Pharma). Initially the peloton let them build up an advantage of around five minutes but then Alpecin-Deceuninck got on the front and it dropped down towards just two minutes with quite a lot of the stage left to race.
Those riders' plans for a full day in the break were soon looking sketchy thanks to Alpecin's determination to bring them back. Probably not the format the breakaway had in mind when they went off the front earlier in the stage. With the front of the bunch almost within touching distance and the peloton strung out the pace dropped, the riders spread out across the road and the gap went back up to around 45 seconds.
After the race continued with the break dangling off the front, the chance to wear a different jersey came up and Van den Berg launched for the "mountains" points, earning the right to wear that jersey tomorrow.
The lead group of five broke up, reformed and then with 58.4km to go they were passed by Alpecin-Decuninck at the head of the peloton. That's a long way for the sprinters' teams to control the race.
Unsatisfied with this new situation, Luis Ángel Maté (Euskaltel-Euskadi) thought he'd have a little solo off the front. It's good for the sponsors. While that was happening, Mark Donovan (Team DSM) needed a bike change at the back of the peloton, his demeanour suggesting he may have crashed.
A long, tree-lined, flat road allowed the peloton to watch but not catch Maté for quite some time, delaying the inevitable crash as the situation was fully under control.
Within the 20km to go mark the solo break was over and the combination of the sprint and GC teams vied for the front of the peloton on a fairly narrow road. Riders were going down at the back of the peloton, running out of road space and hitting the deck.
Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) appeared at the front of the bunch to take full points at the late Intermediate Sprint point. The peloton had been strung out for that sprint before briefly bunching up, until QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl led through a technical section.
There was a hint of rain late on, adding further complication and stress to the closing stages of the day, but thankfully it didn't come to much.
Sweeping bends made position even more important that usual as the peloton hurtled towards the sprint finish.
Vuelta a España 2022: Stage 2 results
1. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Hansgrohe, in 3:49:34
2. Mads Pedersen (Den) Trek-Segafredo
3. Tim Merlier (Bel) Alpecin-Deceuninck
4. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
5. Pascal Ackermann (Ger) UAE Team Emirates
6. Daniel McLay (GBr) Arkea-Samsic
7. Itamar Einhorn (Isr) Israel-Premier Tech
8. Jake Stewart (GBr) Groupama-FDJ
9. John Degenkolb (Ger) Team DSM
10. Kaden Groves (Aus) BikeExchange-Jayco, all same time
General classification after Stage 2
1. Mike Teunissen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, in 4:14:14
2. Edoardo Affini (Ita) Jumbo-Visma
3. Sam Oomen (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
4. Primoz Roglic (Slo) Jumbo-Visma
5. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, all same time
6. Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 12 seconds
7. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 13 seconds
8. Pavel Sivakov (Fra) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Carlos Rodriguez (Esp) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
10. Remco Evennpoel (Bel) QuickStep-Alpha Vinyl, at 14 seconds
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Jack Elton-Walters hails from the Isle of Wight, and would be quick to tell anyone that it's his favourite place to ride. He has covered a varied range of topics for Cycling Weekly, producing articles focusing on tech, professional racing as well as cycling culture. He moved on to work for Cyclist Magazine in 2017 where he stayed for four years until going freelance. He now returns to Cycling Weekly from time-to-time to cover racing and write longer features for print and online. He is not responsible for misspelled titles on box outs
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