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  7. 2017 Vuelta a España, stage 2

2017 Vuelta a España

STAGE 2: Nîmes to Gruissan

This stage will be one of the few in this year’s Vuelta to end with a pure field sprint. The stage will take place entirely in France, with all the obstacles that this implies: lots of roundabouts and central isles, all of which will make the peloton nervous. Special attention must be paid to the crosswind and the echelons found along the coastline as well.

Lampaert powers to La Vuelta stage win and leader's jersey

Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) powered away in the final kilometer to take the second stage of the 2017 Vuelta a España. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) slipped away in the final kilometer of stage two of the 2017 La Vuelta a España on Sunday to take the stage win. His teammate, Matteo Trentin won the bunch sprint to make it a 1-2 finish for the Belgian-based squad in a finale that saw the bunch split to pieces under the intense pace and created gaps among the general classification contenders. Adam Blythe (Aqua Blue Sport) finished third on the stage.

With the stage win came a 10-second time bonus for Lampaert and that was enough to catapult him into the red leader’s jersey with Trentin sitting second overall a second behind. Daniel Oss (BMC) rounds out the top-3.

“We had decided as a team not to try to play the echelons, but rather to wait for the final 10km,” Lampaert said after his stage win. “Terpstra pulled hard in the last 3km, then Alaphilippe formed a small group, and just before the final round-about, I screamed to go full-gas! I still cannot believe that I am leading a grand tour. It’s crazy to me. Tomorrow I will be in the front at the start line. That’s amazing. It’s a big moment in my career. Tomorrow will be hard, but we’ll try to defend the red jersey. If I cannot do it, maybe David de la Cruz or Bob Jungels can take it over.”

The time gaps in the finale were not significant, but Chris Froome (Team Sky) was able to pick up a few seconds over Alberto Contador (Trek-Segefredo).

“It did get pretty quick in the final,” Froome said at the finish. “The guys did a great job riding at the front all day. The last few kilometers we might have been a little bit short. I am still happy with that result. We lost a few seconds to Chaves and Nibali, but we also gained some time on the others, so we have to be happy with that going into the mountains tomorrow.”

How it happened

The second stage of the 2017 La Vuelta a España was a transition stage along the French coast from Nîmes to Gruissan. The 203.4km (124.6mi) stage was pancake flat, but traversing the coast meant that crosswinds were in the mix.

A few riders attacked at the start of the stage, but the pace was just too high for anything to stick. This would be the case for the entire stage, as the peloton powered along at average speed of about 45kph (27.9mph).

Trek-Segafredo and Team Sky came to the fore with around 75km to go to try to split the peloton. Minor echelons formed at the back of the pack, but the wind just wasn’t strong enough to cause any major damage. Chris Froome (Team Sky) briefly stopped at the side of the road with a mechanical with 70 kilometers remaining, but at this point the riders were now facing a slight headwind and the drive to split the bunch had been turned off.

A crash with 60km to go at the back of the pack sent many riders to the ground. All riders would remount and continue, but Annas Ait El Abdia (UAE Emirates) and Javier Moreno (Bahrain-Merida) would both find the riding too tough and abandon the race.

Katusha-Alpecin pushed the accelerator to the floor with 30km, as the peloton appraoched the intermediate sprint. The Russian squad was setting up their sprinter Marco Haller. The intense pace strung out the peloton and caused splits at the back. Trentin would get the better of Haller at the intermediate sprint and now the race was full-throttle to the finish.

Inside the final three kilometers, Team Sky came to the fore and Ian Stannard drove the peloton before Quick-Step Floors then took over with a sudden surge. The increase in pace by the Belgian outfit in the blue and white kits shredded the bunch to pieces.

Niki Terpstra and then Julian Alaphilippe drove the pace, as the team looked to set-up Trentin for the stage win. When Lampaert came to the fore for his pull, his surge was intense enough to create a gap between the others and him. Instead of hesitating and waiting for Trentin to regain contact, Lampaert powered all the way to the line to capture the stage win.

Trentin beat Blythe for second, as the reduced bunch came up to the back wheel of Lampaet. Vincenzo Nibali’s (Bahrain-Merida) attentiveness allowed him to finish on the same time as the winner, as Froome finished in a group eight-seconds behind. Contador finished in a group a further five-seconds behind Froome.

Lampaert leads the overall standings by a single second over Trentin, as Froome has now sneaked into the top-10. The Briton sits ninth overall, 21-seconds behind. Contador is 47th overall at 52-seconds back.

“The goal today was to not lose time and avoid crashes,” Contador said at the finish. “Watching it on TV, it might have seemed boring, but there was quite a bit of tension inside the bunch. Tomorrow? It’s been awhile without competition, so you never know how your body is going to react.”

La Vuelta rumbles on toward its home country on Monday and while the route will make an excursion into Spain, the stage finishes in Andorra. The third stage of the 2017 race travels 158.5km (98.4mi) from the French town of Prades Conflent Canigó to La Vella in Andorra. The stage goes uphill from the gun with a category 1 climb before a gradual downhill until the riders enter Andorra where the climbing begins in earnest. A category 1 and then a category 2 climb in the last 31 kilometers create a difficult finale, but the stages ends with a seven-kilometer descent to the finish.