Nieve sixth in elite group on opening road stage of La Vuelta

Sun 25 Aug 2019

2010 stage winner Mikel Nieve finished sixth on day two of La Vuelta a Espana, on an opening road stage that ended up being a race for the general classification contenders and climbers.

Nieve rode himself into an extremely select lead group of six riders inside the final 25km, only to almost crash on a roundabout inside the final kilometre and take himself out of contention for the stage victory.

Sights set on the final climb:
Four riders formed the first breakaway for the 2019 Vuelta a Espana and rode out to an advantage of seven minutes, but a three-kilometre climb at 9.5% and high alert for road furniture had the race back together with a little over 30km remaining.

As the steep ramps of the Alto de Puig Llorenca began, riders were shelled from the back in abundance whilst attacks sprung from the front.

The pace and gradient was enough to bring the main GC contenders and climbers to the fore, with world champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) one of the main protagonists.

By the top there was little separating the front 20-or-so riders, Mitchelton-SCOTT had Nieve and Esteban Chaves well positioned whilst the likes of Luka Mezgec and Tsgabu Grmay sat around 40seconds back in the second group. 

Surprising run in:
As many were wondering if the larger chase group could drag itself back into contention, it was a move from the front that proved crucial.

Nieve followed an attack by Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb), and they were joined by four overall contenders, including Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team).

The presence at the front gave Chaves a sit-in behind, and the pressure was on the red jersey of Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team) to shoulder the work of the chase.

By the final 10km it was clear the victor was coming from the front group of six and an attack from Quintana with three kilometres to go, was the winning move. 

Nieve and his counterparts got their chase organised, only for the 35-year-old to almost come unstuck on a roundabout which ruined his momentum and chances of the stage victory.

Behind, Chaves finished comfortably in the red jersey group, 37-seconds adrift.

Mikel Nieve – 6thplace:
“I was not thinking of the stage win until the final, because it was a really strong group.

“The hard climb was really hard, and the group was really small so I thought I would go up there and, like this, Esteban can just sit on the wheel and it’s more comfortable for him.

“But in the final, when they said the gap I started to think that maybe it would arrive to the finish and I had to keep more energy. 

“In the end, in a roundabout, I lost the wheel because I almost crashed. That ruined my possibilities which was a bit sad but I’m happy with the legs that I had and it’s a good way to start.”

Julian Dean – Sport Director:
“Mikel had a bit of bad luck there when he slipped on the roundabout which is really unfortunate but the indications are good, the signs are good and the fact that he was in that group, was a really positive sign.

“It meant that we could just sit back and let the race unfold a little bit. It’s always hard on the first road stage on a Grand Tour, the day after a team time trial, but it’s a good indication that all of our riders were there where they needed to be and on the mark.”

La Vuelta – Stage 2 Results:
1. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) 5:11:17
2. Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb) +0:05
3. Primoz Roglic (Team Jumbo-Visma) +0:05
6. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) 0:08

La Vuelta – General Classification after Stage 2:
1. Nicholas Roche (Team Sunweb) 5:26:12
2. Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team) +0:02
3. Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First) +0:08
4. Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT) +0:22

Photos courtesy of Getty Images.