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Stage 2 of the Vuelta a España saw a late crash and a sprint win on an otherwise uneventful day Sunday.
Jasper Philipsen stormed to victory after a stage that threatened crosswinds and saw the peloton on high-alert for a drama that never played out.
A late crash at four kilometers to go injected life into the stage and sparked off a frenetic finale as the peloton raced into Burgos. Philipsen emerged as the strongest in the sprint while Primož Roglič kept upright and remained untouched to retain his GC lead ahead of Monday’s third stage.
Here’s what the stars said after the sun-scorched sprint in Spain:
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma): GC leader
Primož Roglič came through the stage unscathed to finish in the bunch and retain his GC lead.
Roglič was able to enjoy an easier-than-expected day in the saddle after warnings of crosswinds and echelons came to naught. He avoided the late crash that brought down a dozen or more riders just before the three-kilometer time neutralization point.
It will be all-eyes on Roglič in Monday’s summit finish, where a 7.6km, 9.3 percent climb to Picón Blanco will shuffle the GC pack. Despite the importance of Monday’s stage, Roglič said he knows nothing about the steep slope that awaits him.
“You need to be on survival mode and have some luck in such stages where crashes can happen. You need a bit of luck, and luckily, we went through.
“Alex Aranburu (second on GC), with the green jersey, he went for the bonus seconds. I wouldn’t mind if he took the red jersey, it wouldn’t change a lot for me.
“I know nothing of tomorrow’s uphill finish. We’ll see tomorrow how much I like it.”
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix): Stage winner
Jasper Philipsen rode the Alpecin-Fenix train and dodged his way through a chaotic closing kilometer to win his second Vuelta a España stage after also taking the top step last year.
The Belgian speedster continued a phenomenal grand tour streak for his second-tier Alpecin-Fenix team after Mathieu van der Poel lit up the Tour de France and Tim Merlier won the opening sprint stage of both the Tour and this spring’s Giro d’Italia.
The result also makes for sweet relief for Philipsen, who landed on the podium six times at the 2021 Tour de France but was denied the win each time.
“It’s incredible. Yesterday someone put it in our team WhatsApp chat [that we could win the opening sprint of all three grand tours] and for sure it was a dream but I didn’t want to think about it because the chance is always less high than it could come true.
“It just shows how everyone from team is really motivated. It was a team effort and we can be really proud. It was amazing to see all my teammates there and everyone on the front. I had a lot of support and this is how we win sprints. Each of us can be very happy tonight and we start this grand tour in a good way.
“Now we’ll go on and try to get other ones, but not only in the sprints, we have strong guys for other terrain.”
Michael Matthews (BikeExchange): 3rd on stage
Michael Matthews topped a number of “pure sprinters” to place third in the Burgos sprint.
Matthews and his team were likely to have profited had the rumored crosswinds materialized thanks to the Aussie’s ability to win from tough racing in gritty conditions. Matthews and his leadout crew Luka Mezgec and Rob Stannard made the most of a bad situation to take an early podium after being aggressive through the final kilometer of the stage.
Matthews and Co. will be looking forward to the more tricky sprint stages that lie in wait later in the Vuelta’s opening week.
So close… pic.twitter.com/XXY5vz4tM9
— Team BikeExchange (@GreenEDGEteam) August 15, 2021
“There’s not a massive sprint field here but the sprinters there are, the top-5 are really fast. So it was my goal to be top-3, top-5 today, we achieved that.
“We expected a harder day so we thought some of the pure sprinters may be more tired, but it ended up being a super-easy day. I think I averaged 100bpm heart rate all day. But I can be happy with the podium – tomorrow’s another day.
“I think the way the boys delivered me today we can be really confident in our leadout. There’s not a massive field of sprint trains, which makes it easier for us not having a pure sprint train.”
Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe): Fell in late crash
Jordi Meeus and teammate Patrick Gamper were the main casualties of a large crash at 4.3km to go.
A touch of wheels in the speeding peloton saw a number of riders hit the tarmac, and Meeus and Gamper were among the heaviest of the crashing riders. Both of the Bora-Hansgrohe riders initially looked to have been seriously injured and unable to ride on. However, both Meeus and Gamper eventually remounted their machines and rode into the finish. Meeus crossed the line over six minutes back, with Gamper a further minute behind him.
The 23-year-old sprinter Meeus suggested he felt he had avoided the worst shortly after he crossed the line. Even a minor injury so early into the race could make for a tough start to his grand tour debut – here’s hoping he escaped any damage.
“Could be better, could be worse. overall, the damage is OK, so let’s see how the night will be and how the night will be and how I wake up tomorrow.
“We were waiting with the team, closely together. In front of me, they touched each other’s wheels and we crashed with a few guys and I couldn’t avoid it. For sure it’s frustrating. You’re waiting all day for the finish and then a few kilometers from the finish you crash – so for sure it’s frustrating.”