Yves Lampaert of Quick-Step Floors broke the hearts of the sprinters in stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana with a late attack that was enough to upset the bunch sprint that was expected. Lampaert took the win in a Quick-Step 1-2 ahead of Matteo Trentin and Aqua Blue Sport’s Adam Blythe.
Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana took the field on a 203.4km trek from Nimes to Gruissan, an almost completely pancake flat stage without a single categorised climb en route to the finish. The stage was primed for a sprint finish, but attacks were expected to go early on. That was the case, but in the early stages the Trek-Segafredo team of Alberto Contador shut down the moves to try and control matters.
No attacks in stage 2 as pace is too high
After 40km of racing no move had gone clear of the rest of the field. In fact that was the way the stage panned out for most of the day, nothing happening off the front of the peloton and all the action – unfortunately – taking place in the bunch itself due to crashes. While LottoNL-Jumbo, BMC Racing and Team Sky fought for position at the front of the race, riders hit the deck further back in the bunch with the anticipation of strong crosswinds causing just a little bit of tension in the main field.
The race continued to unfold with no attacks going up the road, but no shortage of teams looking to assert themselves at the front of the race. Team Sunweb, Bahrain-Merida, Trek-Segafredo and AG2R La Mondiale all looked to keep their riders safe at the very front of the race. The introduction of very strong crosswinds did nothing at the front of the race, with a group of some 20 riders falling off the back instead, but with a lull in the pace that group was able to regain contract with the main field.
Katusha-Alpecin make strong move
With less than 50km left to race the most exciting thing in a race that had no attacks at all seemed to be the stopping of the race to allow a train to pass. At this point there were a few constants at the front of the peloton. Katusha-Alpecin, LottoNL-Jumbo, Team Sky and BMC Racing were very present and continually so as the race neared its end. They appeared content to share the road at the front of the race, with Trek-Segafredo also getting involved in the race.
At the 30km point though a radical lift in pace threatened the togetherness of the field. Katusha-Alpecin were the instigators but no sooner had the excitement risen at the prospect of a mad chase from a number of riders, than the pace then subsided once again. A change at the head of the race though saw Quick-Step Floors and Astana move towards the front of the race this time, still possibly hoping to split the race a little bit. A number of riders were left dangling at the back of the peloton, but still the race had the feel of being all together for now.
Orica-SCOTT and Aqua Blue Sport moved to the front with 25km to go, positioning their riders well for the sprint. Orica-SCOTT in particular were looking good, and with less than 20km to go they had control of the front of the race. That would change though as the kilometres continued to tick away as first Astana and Bahrain-Merida, then Team Sunweb led the way through the narrow streets approaching 10km remaining.
Quick-Step Floors play master card
Sunweb were still on the front with less than 10km to go, and the pace was a strong 53kph. Team Sky then hit the front as another strong crosswind threatened the field again. Sensing an opportunity Sky went into team time trial mode and this time a number of riders did drop off the back of the bunch. With less than 5km to go Astana lent their support to the pace setting before Sky again moved to the front.
After a day of racing almost entirely together it appeared that a sprint would be inevitable, but then all of a sudden Quick-Step Floors moved to the front and with the pace hitting 60kph they made a serious move in a bid for victory. It was a massive move from the Belgian team who dragged just a small handful of riders along with them. Then slipping off the front with 1km to go went Yves Lampaert and with that the Quick-Step Floors team’s pace subsided. Daniel Oss of BMC Racing tried to close the gap but Lampaert was just too strong and he powered away to a shock win on a day that on paper was destined for a sprint.
Punching the air were the first two riders as Lampaert and teammate Matteo Trentin took first and second place across the line. Adam Blythe of Aqua Blue Sport was the first of the purer sprinters to cross the line in third place, but in many ways the sprinters will have felt robbed today. Edward Theuns of Trek-Segafredo took fourth place with UAE Team Emirate’s Sacha Modolo completing the top five. In the madness towards the finish splits did break things up just a bit, with Vincenzo Nibali of Bahrain-Merida the main benefactor. The Italian finished 10th and 5 seconds ahead of Esteban Chaves, with another 3 seconds back to the Chris Froome group, who will be happy nonetheless that he lost no major time to the rest of his rivals.
Carlos Betancur of Movistar, Fabio Aru of Astana, Julian Alaphilippe of Quick-Step Floors, Adam Yates of Orica-SCOTT were all in the Froome group, while the ‘main’ peloton finished 5 seconds later on. George Bennett of LottoNL-Jumbo was in this group, with Tom Scully of Cannondale-Drapac and Sam Bewley of Orica-SCOTT just behind them.
Overall there was a change in the overall lead as Yves Lampaert moved into the overall lead 1 second ahead of teammate Trentin with Daniel Oss third at 3 seconds. At the head of the GC battle was Chris Froome, who moved into 10th place overall.
Tom Scully is the highest placed of the Kiwis overall at 1.19mins, with George Bennett at 1.27mins, Sam Bewley at 1.54mins and Aaron Gate at 2.03mins.