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Ruta del Sol: Poels wins stage 2, takes pole position

All eyes have been on Chris Froome this week at Spain’s Ruta del Sol, but his Sky teammate Wout Poels stole the spotlight Thursday, winning stage 2 and taking the overall lead.

Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez was second, and Lotto-Soudal’s Tim Wellens finished third on the uphill finish on Alto de las Allandas. Froome finished seventh, 27 seconds adrift.

Stage 2, top five

1. Wout Poels (Team Sky), in 3:38:04
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), at :02
3. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), at :02
4. Mikel Landa (Movistar), at :04
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), at :04

Top-five overall

1. Wout Poels (Team Sky), in 6:59:43
2. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), at :02
3. Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal), at :02
4. Mikel Landa (Movistar), at :04
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), at :04

Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) was the last survivor from a breakaway trio that rode most of the 140-kilometer day off the front. The Spaniard pressed on as the lead dwindled to about one minute with five kilometers — and a tough climb to 1,000 meters above sea level — remaining.

From the peloton, Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang made the first acceleration on the final climb.

Movistar’s Mikel Landa responded and was followed by Wellens.

Sensing the danger, Poels took off and joined lead trio with about two kilometers to go. Following this flurry of initial moves, Rubio was caught.

Ever the aggressor, Wellens made a bid for glory with about 1,500 meters remaining in the climb. The Belgian got a promising gap, but there was too far to ride. Poels countered, caught Wellens and won the day by two seconds.

Froome had tipped Poels to do well, saying his teammate was “in great shape at the moment.”

As for himself, Froome admitted that the drama surrounding his Salbutamol case has been a distraction.

“It’s hard not to be distracted to some extent with everything that’s been going on,” said the 32-year-old Brit at the start of Thursday’s stage outside Jaen in Andalusia.

“But I really enjoy the racing, the actual bike-riding side of it, so that’s been quite easy for me to stay focused on that.”

“Obviously this is my first race of the season now and yesterday I didn’t feel super if I’m going to be completely honest,” he said on Thursday.

Poels will ride into Friday’s stage 3 with the leader’s jersey and a slim lead. The Dutchman should be able to defend his GC position as the 165.1km run to Herrera is very flat and favors a bunch finish.

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