Leader's Jersey Changes Hands on Vuelta Stage Two Summit Finish

Sun 25 Aug 2013

After an opening stage team time trial to began the first sorting of the overall contenders, the Vuelta a España threw a summit finish at the peloton on stage two. The largely flat route, save for a category three hill in the second hour of racing, concluded with a category one ascent.

Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) and Francisco Aramandia (Caja Rural) attacked in the first kilometre. The trio quickly went to work to build up their advantage.

“We had a discussion before the stage where we said there was a chance the break might stay away today,” noted Sport Director Neil Stephens. “Simon Clarke tried to get into the move this morning. He hoped to repeat the situation he had on stage four last year when he was in a break and took advantage of the GC riders marking each other rather than worrying about the riders up the road.”

Despite Clarke’s efforts, he missed the move. As the peloton allowed the gap to grow to nearly 13’, it seemed as if the break had a chance of contesting the stage win.

“There was a big headwind in the approach to the final climb,” said Stephens. “In the end, the wind and the chase brought the break anyway. It didn’t matter that Clarkey wasn’t in it.”

As first Astana and then Lampre-Merida dictated the pace, ORICA-GreenEDGE sat back to allow the general classification teams and those with an interest in the stage to do their work. By the time the peloton hit the lower slopes of the final climb, the break’s advantage had fallen to less than one minute.

“The boys contained themselves today to get ready for their main objectives tomorrow and the next day,” Stephens explained. “Only Wes wanted to see how he was going uphill, so he tested himself.”

“I know I’m in good shape, and I spoke to Gerro [Simon Gerrans] about the finish towards the end of the race,” said Sulzberger. “He said it started steep but eased off. I was hoping I could get to the pointy end with bunch and maybe mix it up for the uphill sprint.”

Sulzberger managed to hang onto the peloton as they overtook the break and tackled the steepest gradients. As Movistar increased the tempo, first Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and then Sergio Henao (Team Sky) fell off pace. Even as the overall contenders cracked, Sulzberger maintained contact with the elite group.

An attack from Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) dislodged overnight race leader Janez Brajkovic (Astana). Shortly after, the front group split and Sulzberger found himself in group two.

“I made it over the steep part but 5km from the finish, I dropped off the front group with about 40 other riders,” Sulzberger noted. “I’m happy with how I’m feeling and I know have the legs tomorrow to help our guys for one of the targeted stages.”

Sulzberger ultimately crossed the uphill finish line in 53rd place, 2’19 behind stage winner Nicholas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff). Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) finished in a 16 rider group at 14” to assume the race lead from his teammate.