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Launching a long sprint on the uphill finishing straight, Lobato easily beat Degenkolb in the second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia; Contador defended his overall lead

Photo: Sirotti










19.02.2015 @ 16:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar) again confirmed that he is one of the best riders in the world for uphill sprints when he took a hugely dominant win in the second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia. Launching a long sprint alongside the barriers, he easily distanced John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Grega Bole (CCC) to take his second win of the season while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) tested his legs in the finale and defended his overall lead.


Last year Juan Jose Lobato took two wins in his first year with Movistar and they both came in tough uphill sprints. Earlier this year he proved that he is now one of the best in the business for that specific discipline when he took his first ever WorldTour win in the famous uphill finale in Stirling on stage 2 of the Tour Down Under.


With stage 2 of the Vuelta a Andalucia finishing with a slight rise to the line and a tough category 3 climb inside the final 15km, it was perfectly suited to the local hero and he was naturally a man to watch. However, he was up against another expert in this business as John Degenkolb is also doing the Spanish race. When it all came down to the exciting battle between the fast riders, however, the Spaniard turned out to be in a class of his own and he took a hugely comfortable win ahead of Degenkolb and Grega Bole.


As the riders had just passed the tough climb, no sprinter had much support in the finale and this made the sprint pretty confusing. It opened the door for attacks and with 2.9km to go, Sky played an unusual card when they sent Peter Kennaugh up the road.


The British champion was joined by a CCC rider but Movistar were quick to react and it was Gorka Izagirre who shut it down. Instead, Mirko Selvaggi (Wanty) launched a strong counterattack and as the Basque had now blown up, he quickly got a big gap. For a moment, it seemed as though the Italian could create a surprise but when Unitedhealthcare started to chase and got some help from Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpein), he was brought back just as they passed the flamme rouge.


At this point, race leader Alberto Contador saw that everybody was on their limit and he made a surprise attack. However, Geschke realized the danger and was quickly on the wheel of the Spaniard.


Instead, it was the CCC team which hit the front, with Maciej Paterski leading Grega Bole out. However, the Slovenian hit the wind too early and decided to slow down.


Lobato was not in a great position but he used the hesitation to launch a long sprint alongside the barrier. He sprinted past all his rivals and quickly got a big gap. Degenkolb and Bole did their best to get back in contention but the Spaniard was clearly the fastest and had plenty of time to celebrate his win.


Contador finished safely in the bunch and so defended his overall lead, with Bob Jungels (Trek) being in the same time as the Spaniard. He faces his hardest test tomorrow when the queen stage will see the riders go up an early category 1 climb before they hit the brutally steep Alto de Hazallanas in the finale. It is 17km long but the final 8km are simply torturous as the average gradient is more than 10% and it will be the scene for the first big battle between Contador and Chris Froome (Sky).


A tricky finale

After the dramatic opening stage that had seen the sprinters miss out on their first chance to win a stage, they were expected to get their final opportunity on stage 2 which brought the riders over 191.7km from Utrerar to Lucena. After a completely flat first part, things got difficult in the finale when the riders tackled a 2.6km climb with an average gradient of 6.5% before they descended 9km down to the uphill finishing straight.


Tobias Ludvigsson (Giant-Alpecin) who hurt his wrist yesterday, and Stephen Cummings (MTN-Qhubeka) who had fallen ill, didn’t take the start as 144 riders rolled out in beautiful sunshine and 15-degree temperatures. With a sprint finish expected, most riders preferred to save their energy for later stages and so the break was established straight from the gun when Pirmin Lang (IAM), Adrian Honkisz (CCC), Sjoerd van Ginneken (Roompot) and Nicolas Dougall (MTN-Qhubeka) attacked. Aleksandr Komin (Rusvelo) set off in pursuit and he quickly joined the leaders to make it a front quintet.


Tinkoff-Saxo take control

The peloton was in no hurry and after 5km of racing, the gap was already 1.05. At the 10km mark, it was 3.25 as Tinkoff-Saxo had now started to control the tempo in the peloton.


Jan Ghyselinck (Wanty) and Stefan Schumacher (CCC) who were among the many riders to crash yesterday, abandoned the race while the gap reached 4.15. Tinkoff-Saxo stabilized the situation around that mark but as they again slowed down, the gap went out to 5.05 at the 54km mark.


Movistar start to chase

Movistar had now decided that they wanted Juan Jose Lobato to win a sprint and so they started to work with the Tinkoff-Saxo riders. Those two teams rode steadily in the headwind to keep the gap at around 5 minutes.


At the first intermediate sprint, van Ginneken was faster than Lang and Dougall while back in the peloton, Movistar had again stopped their work. Instead, it was Caleb Fairly (Giant-Alpecin) riding on the front with Evgeny Petrov (Tinkoff-Saxo) and those two riders kept the gap at around 4.15.


The gap comes down

With 80km to go, the chase got more serious as Eros Capecchi (Movistar) and Daan Olivier (Giant-Alpecin) also came to the fore and their work quickly paid off. With 65km to go, the gap was 3.15 and dropped to less than 2 minutes with 60km to go.


Petrov finished his work and left it to Sergio Paulinho to do the job for Tinkoff-Saxo. Later Fairly blew up and with 50km to go, it was Paulinho, Olivier and Capecchi setting the pace, keeping the gap stable at around 1.30.


Komin is dropped

The fight for position had now started as the riders approached the hiller finale and FDJ, Trek and Colombia were no gathering their troops. Meanwhile, Komin was dropped from the break on a small rise as the gap had come down to just 55 seconds.


The peloton didn’t want to catch the break too early and they kept the gap stable at around 45 seconds for more than 10km. As the fight for position got even more intense, however, the break was about to be caught when they hit the finishing straight for the first time.


Lang wins the sprint

Van Ginneken wanted to win the final intermediate sprint and he launched an attack which only Lang could match. While Honkisz and Dougall were caught, the Swiss countered the move and dropped the Dutchman while Paulinho rolled across the line in third.


After the sprint, the escapees sat up while Paulinho swung off, leaving the work to Jose Herrada (Movistar). The battle for position was now very intense and FDJ and CCC both had stints on the front before Tinkoff-Saxo regained control at the bottom of the climb.


Edet attacks

Michael Valgren did the early work while several riders were dropped. One kilometre from the top, Sky took over with Vasil Kiriyenka as Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) was a surprise victim to the pace.


Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) launched a strong attack and was joined by a UnitedHealthCare. An IAM rider took off in pursuit but never made the junction as Edet won the KOM sprint ahead of the UnitedHealthCare who dropped his chain after the top and fell back to the peloton. Kanstantsin Siutsou moved ahead to take third.


Quintero with a late move

Edet tried to continue his attack but was brought back with 7km to go. Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) briefly tried and attack but it was Carlos Quintero (Colombia) who got a gap.


The Colombian pressed on for a little while but as Jose Herrada again started to chase. He was dropped. Moments later Kennaugh launched his attack but it was Lobato who ended up as the stage winner.



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