A day for the sprinters but for the breakaway riders too who can take the mountains jersey for a few days with the points on offer atop the first category Puerto del Léon. All without Vincenzo Nibali, excluded after being caught hanging on to his team car yesterday.
Stage 2 Wrap: Esteban Chaves won the stage in a convincing manner, attacking out of the front group, passing the move with Nairo Quintana, Nicolas Roche, Louis Meintjes and Tom Dumoulin to set the pace. Roche tried an attack and blew, Dumoulin tried to track but blew too and Estaban Chaves was left blowing kisses in his victory salute. An impressive win and good, even unexpected riding by Tom Dumoulin, who showed us what could have been on the Mur de Huy had he not crashed out. Of course it wasn’t to be but with rides like this he’ll deliver something big one day and he’s looking more and more like stage racing talent than a time trial prodigy. Behind there was tactical tension with Quintana’s presence upfront meaning Astana and Katusha didn’t want to chase and expose themselves to a counter-attack by Valverde.
There were many crashes and one giant one with 30km to go, it took out many and Vincenzo Nibali was left behind and forced to chase, at times solo, at times with some help. The images caught on camera led to the inevitable disqualification of Nibali and his DS Alex Schefer. Nibali’s crime was two fold: first to be caught on camera for it; second to gain advantage on other riders. If he’d got a tow just to get back to a group of dropped riders there would have been a certain indifference, a tolerance to him rebalancing the misfortune of a crash, but being towed clear from this group was outrageous, he might as well have sat in the car Sepulveda-style. He’s paid a heavy price and 2015 looks like a year to forget sports-wise. He and especially his team should have known better. Meanwhile without scandal Tejay van Garderen lost 45 seconds and Domenico Pozzovio lost 55 on the final climb.
The Route: an uphill start early on and the Alto de Mijas is the perfect launchpad for the day’s breakaway, 6km at 7.1%. On a day promised to the sprinters a breakaway can look futile but many will be interested in going clear today because of the two climbs, score on the first climb and then win atop the Puerto de Léon, 16km at 5%, and a rider can hope to hold the mountains jersey for the week, a good prize anytime but even more important when you consider just how many out of contract desperados need a result right now.
The Finish: that late bump on the profile is on a big wide road and should not present a problem for sprinters who have shown up in form. It’s exposed but the forecast says calm weather. Then comes a high risk downhill section into town, no big obstacles, just riders spinning out their gears and jostling for position. There’s a 270˚ bend before the 1km to go banner and then a straight, flat dash to the line.
The Contenders: a duel between Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb? If so then Degenkolb wins on paper because he’s got the stronger, more consistent team including Luza Mezgec as a Plan B. But it’s neither a two way battle nor that simple. Bouhanni was in the big crash yesterday and got a bit cut after colliding into someone else’s chainring but he thrives on adversity. The late hill will sort out a few but could some teams try to set a fierce pace over the Puerto de Léon to eliminate the sprinters? Probably not, even if Tinkoff-Saxo could eliminate some sprinters they’d still have to ride on the front for 80km, use up riders, and then Peter Sagan could be outsmarted in the finish. So Sagan is more likely to try a classic sprint. Caleb Ewan should be there too and then come a string of others like Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal), Tom Van Aesbroeck (Lotto-Jumb0), Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory Racing), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka) and Lorenzo Manzin (FDJ).
|John Degenkolb, Nacer Bouhanni
|Caleb Ewan, Peter Sagan, Kris Boeckmans
|Van Aesbroeck, Van Poppel
Weather: warm and sunny with a top temperature of 32°C and a 10-15kmh breeze from the southwest.
TV: tune in for the finish in Malaga which is expected, like every upcoming stage, for 5.4opm Euro time. It’s on Eurosport and you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.
Daily Díaz: the Vuelta arrives to Málaga, the sixth city in Spain by its population. It has a looong history which starts somewhere in the 8th century BC: the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Arabs ruled the place before the Christian conquest in 1487. Another conquest took place in early 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Before that, in 1881, Pablo Picasso was born in the city. This painter, who spent most of his life in France, is perhaps best known for his work “Guernica” which represents the bombing of that Basque town by the German air force in 1937. A symbol of the consequences of war on the civil population, this huge painting can be contemplated in Madrid.
Thanks to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel