Sunday, August 25, 2013

Stage 2 Report and Stage 3 Preview 2013 Vuelta a España

The son of a champ is champ for a day

Stage 2 of the 2013 Vuelta a España featured the first summit finish of the race, the category-1 Monte da Groba. The three-man break was caught on the early slopes of the 11-k climb to the finish, and the GC hopefuls showed their form as they tested their legs on the first serious climb of the race.

Four riders got clear of the bunch in the final kilometers and battled for the stage win. Leopold Konig of Team Netapp-Endura put in a promising attack, but was reeled in by Ag2R’s Domenico Pozzovivo, Team Saxo Tinkoff’s Nicolas Roche, and Daniel Moreno of Katusha. In the end it was Roche who took the win, showing his best form of the season, and netting his first win in two years. Before the race Roche stated that he was going for a top-5 spot on the general classification.

The bigger story may be the unexpected suffering of some of the race favorites on the final climb. Sergio Henao, Team Sky’s proclaimed leader, lost contact with the peloton and finished 60th, 2:41 behind Roche’s winning time. It looks now like Sky will pin their GC hopes on Henao’s fellow Colombian, Rigoberto Uran, who finished 10th today.

Sammy Sanchez, leader of the moribund Euskaltel Team, was dropped on the climb and lost significant time. As of this writing, his name does not appear in today’s stage results. His teammates Igor Anton, Gorka Verdugo and Egoi Martinez all lost 2:41, so the Basque team only has Mikel Nieve remaining in a competitive position, currently 29th, 1:14 off the lead. **UPDATE: They finally added Sanchez's name to the stage results: he finished with his teammates who had waited for him, 2:41 back.

Beñat Intxausti of Team Movistar was another casualty of the clock, losing more than two minutes. His team is of course counting on Alejandro Valverde for overall success, but Intxausti’s help will be vital in the big mountains to come.

First red jersey wearer, Janez Brajkovic of Astana, finished 40th, :51 off the pace, but more importantly, his leader, Vincenzo Nibali, took over the race lead with his solid performance on stage 2.

Stage 3 route

Stage 3 Profile
Stage 3 continues in Galicia, taking the peloton 185 mostly flat kilometers, from Vigo to Mirador de Lobeira. The circuitous route follows much of the local coastline, and should offer some very nice views. The only categorized climb on the route is the cat-3 finishing hill. It is about a 3k steep ramp that will favor the puncheurs.

The stage 3 climb to the finish
My pick to win stage 2, Rafal Majka finished 12th, with the main group of GC favorites, :14 behind the winner—Majka’s teammate, Nicolas Roche.

My pick for stage 3: I would say Pozzovivo, Gilbert and Purito are good bets, but I am going to pick Roman Kreuziger to give Saxo two consecutive wins.

For a long shot I’ll pick Bartosz Huzarski of Team Netapp to notch his first win of the season.

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