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“This time I was taken right through the last kilometre by Christophe Laporte, and then all I had to do was step on the accelerator with 200 to go. The whole squad did a great job of supporting me over the top of that climb."

Photo: Sirotti

BRENT BOOKWALTER

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DANIELE BENNATI

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ENRICO BATTAGLIN

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FABIO FELLINE

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JUAN JOSE LOBATO

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KANSTANTIN SIUTSOU

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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NACER BOUHANNI

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ROOMPOT-CHARLES

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SIMON GESCHKE

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TEAM JUMBO-VISMA

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TEAM SKY

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TEAM SUNWEB

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TOSH VAN DER SANDE

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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VUELTA A ANDALUCIA

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18.02.2016 @ 20:52 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After several near-misses, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) finally opened his 2016 account when he came out on top in a hugely confusing reduced bunch sprint on the second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia. Having been given the perfect lead-out by teammate Christophe Laporte, he easily held off Fabio Felline (Trek) and Ben Swift (Sky) to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey on a countback as there are no bonus seconds in the Spanish race.

 

We have gathered several reactions.

 

Nacer Bouhanni: I had to make up for yesterday’s disappointment

“After yesterday’s stage, I was really disappointed,” Bouhanni told Cyclingnews. “We completely missed our chance yesterday because it wasn’t clear where the last kilometre of the stage began, and I came out of the last roundabout in 25th place.

 

“This time I was taken right through the last kilometre by Christophe Laporte, and then all I had to do was step on the accelerator with 200 to go. The whole squad did a great job of supporting me over the top of that climb and then bringing me back together for the final sprint.”

 

“A result like this is a good sign about my form, I started off the season with 75 percent of my full condition and it’s getting better and better, so I’m pleased. It’s good both for my Paris-Nice and Milan-San Remo.

 

“Friday is much harder than today, and my goal here was to get a stage, it was really important for me.”

 

Fabio Felline left frustrated by poor signing in Andalusia sprint

The 186.3-kilometer stage two at the Vuelta a Andalucia (Ruta del Sol) ended with a punchy climb, followed by a twisty, narrow downhill and flat final run-in. An ending written to the tune of Fabio Felline, who nearly snatched his first win of 2016 only to beaten to the line by the faster legs of sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis).

 

"The final climb was so fast, and it made a huge selection," explained Felline at the race finish. "The downhill was really crazy! But I was in good position on the climb and started the descent in third position. We arrived in Córdoba with 18-19 guys. Only in the last kilometers did it come back to a big peloton."

 

The race began its crescendo on the six-kilometer category three climb (average gradient 5.8%) that topped out 23 kilometers from home and followed by a series of rollers; the true descent did not start until 15 kilometers remained.

 

When a 19-rider group emerged out of the downhill as the road flattened and Felline was in the mix, the odds were stacked in his favor.

 

However, a large group fought its way back on, including the fast legs of sprinter Bouhanni, and it was over 50 riders that roared to the line. Bouhanni snatched the win, and Felline crossed the line in second place, another podium placing for the Italian, who has emerged as a big finisher in the last two years.

 

"Like yesterday the finish was not signed well," continued Felline. "All of a sudden I saw the finish line and started my sprint. Bouhanni started before me; I waited too much, but regardless, for sure Bouhanni was going to win and chapeau - a big compliment to him.

 

"But sometimes I would prefer to make a perfect sprint and leave it all on the road, and if I am second, I am second. When you don't give it your all, it's a little frustrating and doesn't feel the same." 

 

Kiel Reijnen sprinted to a respectable 8th place, and Bauke Mollema and Haimar Zubeldia crossed in the same time to keep the drive for a high general classification placing intact.

 

Sky regrets late regrouping after third place for Swift in Andalusia

Ben Swift sprinted to third on day two of the Ruta del Sol after an exciting stage in Spain. Swift was denied the win by Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis), who produced a fine sprint from a reduced peloton to take the honours.

 

Gianni Moscon finished 11th while Wout Poels and Vasil Kiryienka also finished strongly as Team Sky enjoyed a good day's racing. As expected the stage heated up when the peloton hit the third category climb 25 kilometres from the finish.

 

With Nicolas Roche setting a ferocious tempo at the front, riders quickly fell off the back of the bunch, and by the time the climb had been crested the peloton had been severely reduced, leading to an exciting finish into Cordoba.

 

Ruben Pols (Topsport Vlaanderen - Baloise), Reinier Honig (Roompot - Oranje Peloton), Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH) and Aitor Gonzales (Euskadi Murias) had formed the main breakaway of the day and built a three-minute gap on the peloton with 70 kilometres to go.

 

But the bunch quickly reeled them in and the race came back together at the foot of the climb.

Sky moved to the front and led the way up, but Dimension Data's Kanstantsin Siutsou had other ideas - he attacked and stayed clear for a few kilometres, but never built a gap of more than 30 seconds.

 

What was left of the peloton regrouped on the long descent into Cordoba, and in the closing stages Sky appeared to have formed a lead-out train for Swift.

 

But Bouhanni was too strong and Swift couldn't get round him on the tight finish straight.

 

Sport Director Dario Cioni believes Swift would have been in with a better shout of winning had the small group that developed at the front of the race in the closing stages stayed clear.

 

He said: "If it had stayed as a group of 19 it would have been better for us but unluckily we only had Wout and Ben in that group. If we had someone else in there we could have tried to keep it out.

 

"It was a pretty hard finish, so to have riders there and to have been the team who made it hard is pretty good. We fell slightly short on the result - it is always nice to win, but we can't always do that. There are still some good things we can take away from the stage."

 

The team was instrumental in bringing the breakaway back before setting the tempo on the climb and Ciono was pleased with the riders' efforts.

 

He added: "We had agreed we wanted to be the ones who made the running up the climb, rather than struggling in the wheels of another team, so Nico [Roche] did a very good job there."

 

And looking ahead to the rest of the race, Cioni believes team leader Poels is in good shape.

 

“Wout is pretty confident. Just like today there is a slightly dangerous finish tomorrow, but from what we have seen I am confident that we are going to be in a good place - then it's up to Wout and his legs to do the job."

 

Raymond Kreder frustrated after fifth place in Andalusia

Raymond Kreder sprinted to fifth and is now third overall. However, the Roompot sprinter was disappointed.

 

“Another good day on the bike. Can only blame it on myself to not be placed well in the sprint again. Very frustrating! Tomorrow last chance,” he tweeted after the stage.

 

Juan Jose Lobato frustrated by poor positioning in Andalusia

Bad luck stroke Juan Jose Lobato again, the local crowd’s favourite unable to get a good position for the sprint on day two of the Vuelta a Andalucía (186km) as Nacer Bouhanni (COF) claimed the day’s honours and the leader’s jersey.

 

Lobato finished 6th in Córdoba after an exquisite work from his team-mates: controlling the bunch with Dani Moreno on the descent of the Cat-3 Alto de Trassierras; attentive with Alejandro Valverde; and hopeful about Lobato’s chances in a finish he would later regret.

 

The Trebujena-based rider now sits in 2nd overall and could well aim for a shot at the red jersey tomorrow in Padul (157.9km), despite the Puerto del Valle (Cat-2) being over 15km away from the finish and allowing a major regrouping like today’s. With no bonus seconds and no splits in the field either for the GC contenders, Valverde stays in good position before Saturday’s crucial ITT in Alhaurín.

 

 “I had set three ‘checkpoints’ on my day’s performance: the first one was reaching the KOM in good position; the second, not losing it on the descent; and the third one, to get a good line for the sprint and start it in free air. However, the third one was impossible for me: there was some swerving with 700 meters to go, after the last turn, I got boxed in and it was too late for me when I got back to where I was,” Lobato said.

 

“Having a guy like Alejandro helping you out in the sprint is a honour, and makes it even more painful not to pay him and the team back with a victory. For a sprinter, taking 2nd or 3rd on a stage or overall doesn’t matter: only victory counts, and I hope to take it tomorrow. I’m feeling well and I hope that any of us two, the ‘boss’ or myself, can bring something good on Friday.”

 

Tosh van der Sande again sprint to top 10 in Andalusia

Tosh van der Sande is enjoying a rare chance to be the sprinter for Lotto Soudal. Today he again finished in the top 10 with a seventh place.

 

”7th today and 5th in GC! Thanks @Lotto_Soudal for the support... Tmrw hard stage let see how it turns out,” he tweeted after the stage.

 

LottoNL-Jumbo: We had expected the finale to be harder

Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s Enrico Battaglin finished ninth behind winner Nacer Bouhanni in the second stage of the Ruta del Sol today. The French sprinter from Team Cofidis is now the new leader in the general classification, Enrico Battaglin sits in 10th.

 

The stage covered a tough climb just before the finish in Cordoba. Kanstantsin Siutsou attacked on the Alto de Trossierras, when the group shrunk to 40 riders. On the descent, the Belorussian of Team Dimension Data was caught and a sprint followed.

 

"I must confess that it was less difficult than I had imagined," said Sport Director Addy Engels. "I did not think Bouhanni could sprint here, though. Enrico Battaglin placed ninth and I'm happy with that, especially considering that he was a bit ill and had a fever last week."

 

On the descent to Cordoba, there were some time gaps. The road surface was wet in places, which made it difficult to judge. Yet a large group went to the finish for a sprint.

 

"The descent was technical and fast," said Enrico Battaglin. "I was in a group with Bouhanni and Wilco Kelderman. Three kilometres before the finish, we were in line with the first group. I started well in the sprint and moved to a top ten ranking. That is important for me and the team. Tomorrow there's another day."

 

Friday’s stage has many climbs. The last summit is just 16 kilometres from the finish.

 

Strong BMC team split the field on Andalusian descent

It was a fast descent into the finish of stage 2 of Ruta del Sol, with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) taking the stage win in a bunch sprint and claiming the race lead.

 

A four rider breakaway stayed clear of the peloton until they hit the climb with 20 kilometers to go. As expected, the climb split the peloton as they reached the top of the climb and started the descent into the finish in Cordoba.

 

Heading into the final 10 kilometers BMC Racing Team had a strong presence in the final group with four of the 18 riders.

 

Bookwalter and Sanchez hit the lead with seven kilometers to go, before two groups merged, leaving 40 riders to battle it out in a sprint. Fabio Felline (Trek-Segafredo) and Ben Swift (Team SKY) rounded out the top three.

 

Brent Bookwalter was BMC Racing Team’s best-placed rider in the stage.

 

“It was a pretty mellow first 150 kilometers and then a pretty difficult physically and also technically demanding last final 20 or 30 kilometers. It was the first time I had seen the descent and luckily the pavement was good because there were some tight, sweeping corners,” Bookwalter said.

 

“We had a great position with Philippe, Samuel, Tejay and myself. It was a good test of the legs and a good test of riding together in a technical situation where the race heats up. I feel good, the legs are good and we’ve got another couple of hard days coming up.”

 

Stage 3 tomorrow will see the peloton ride 157.9 kilometers from Monachil to Padul.

 

Strong Kanstantsin Siutsou on the attack in Andalusia

Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had a quiet start to the stage when 4 riders got away to form the break of the day. As the peloton then later reeled the quartet in just before the only climb of the day started, with 30km to go, the African Team came to the fore to light up the race.

 

With Team Sky setting the pace on the lower slopes of the 6km climb, Belorussian powerhouse, Kanstantsin Siutsou charged ahead solo, and pried open a 20 second lead. Siutsou quickly got himself into a rhythm on the ever changing gradient and held his 20 second advantage right up until the 18km descent to the line began. Attacks came thick and fast from the peloton as they too neared the top of the climb.

 

As Siutsou made the drop to the finish, 18 riders would bridge the gap to the African Team rider with 10km to go. With not many teams represented by more than a single rider, the pace lulled enough for a larger chase group to regain contact with just 4km remaining. A number of sprinters were part of this group and so was Basque rider, Omar Fraile. As the fast men lined up the finish, Fraile put in a last ditch attack with 1km to go but he was immediately chased by the sprinters teams and eventually caught with 200m to go.

 

The Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders were left with no significant result on the day but take much confidence into tomorrow’s stage, which is suited to the climbing contingent here at the Ruta del Sol.

 

“Today's stage was all about the last 35km, with a 6km climb. Our plan was to support Kristian [Sbaragli] if he had the legs to stay in the first group, if not our climbers had the freedom to make a move in the race which Kosta went on to do pretty well. His maximum gap was 28 seconds but teams like BMC and Movistar chased him down. It was a good try by Kosta. Tomorrow is going to be a medium mountain stage in cold conditions which we look forward to,” sports director Alex Sans Vega said.

 

Simon Geschke: Nacer Bouhanni was pushed up the climb by his teammates

Simon Geschke managed to finish in the first group of riders in 19th place as Nacer Buhanni (Cofidis) won the reduced sprint to win his first race of the season. The stage got off to a bad start with Koen de Kort not starting because of a minor pain in his knee.

 

Simon Geschke, Tobias Ludvigsson and Sam Oomen managed to get over the climb in a good position and during the descent, they managed to make a gap with 70 riders to contest the stage victory.

 

In the sprint, Tobias Ludvigsson and Sam Oomen tried to put Simon Geschke at the front of the bunch but he got boxed in while Nacer Bouhanni won the sprint and became the new leader in the general classification.

Giant-Alpecin Coach Arthur van Dongen said:

 

“Today we tried to go in the break unfortunately, we didn’t succeed. For the most part, Tinkoff controlled the race.

 

“On the last climb, Roy [Curvers] and Frederik [Ludvigsson] couldn’t follow the pace and they both got dropped but Simon, Tobias and Sam stayed in touch with the front group and they contested the sprint with 70 riders remaining. In the sprint, Simon got boxed in and didn’t have a good sprint”.

 

”Not a fan of sprinters that get pushed up the last climb by teammates and then win the stage,” Geschke tweeted after the stage, thus accusing Bouhanni for having using unsporting methods to get his victory.

 

No jersey defence for Daniele Bennati on difficult day in Andalusia

In the longest stage of the Spanish race, Daniele Bennati of Tinkoff crossed the finish line in the leading group. Team co-leaders, Rafal Majka and Roman Kreuziger, didn't lose time in the GC, ahead of the weekend's decisive stages.
 
The second stage, from Palomares del Rio to Cordoba (186.3 km) was marked by an early breakaway, similar to the previous day, with four riders gaining a maximum gap of about 4 minutes on the peloton. In the front group, several teams, including Tinkoff, kept the break under control.
 
Unfortunately, a fall, early into the stage, affected Nikolay Trusov, who suffered from road rash on his right leg. Nevertheless, the Russian rider was strong and powered up back to the peloton, working hard in the front to chase the break.
 
With 30 km to go, a compact group caught the escapees, before the complicated finale, with a third category climb, Alto de Trassiera,  22 km from the finish line. The climb, with a 5.8% average incline, was tackled by the peloton at a steady pace, although of course it did make a selection, with a group of several dozen riders who rode past the final summit.
 
Soon after that the riders had to face a series of twisting false flats and a fast descent to Cordoba which caused a further selection prior to the finishing sprint where unfortunately Daniele Bennati was squeezed out and therefore he was unable to sprint. The Italian rider now sits 8th in the GC and third in the Points Classification.

 

"Today we were a bit unlucky before the descent because Oscar Gatto had a puncture and was left behind.  In addition, the descent was approached at a very fast pace and the group was split," said Sport Director Bruno Cenghialta. "Kreuziger and Bennati got back in with 3.5 km to go and in the last kilometer we brought Daniele in the front positions of the group to try and do his sprint but unfortunately he was closed and couldn't carry out. However, today it went quite well because we had good feedback from the guys. As I said before, in the end we were just a little bit unlucky because we were able to do the things the way we wanted to".
 
According to Daniele Bennati, luck wasn't on the team's side in today's stage. "Today we weren't that lucky because there were four of us in the first group, and Oscar Gatto was probably a little bit better suited than me to try and get a result. Unfortunately, he punctured in the last descent, and so in the end it was just me, Rafal and Roman in the first group. I tried to do a good sprint but I was squeezed out in the final 500 meters, so I couldn't really start sprinting. Anyway my condition, as well as Majka's, Gatto's and Kreuziger's is good, and this is very promising for the next few days".
 
Tomorrow, the third stage, 157.9 km long, will take the peloton from Monachil to Padul.
 
"Tomorrow, it will be another stage which, in theory, is meant to end with a final sprint, but a breakaway with six-seven riders could also get to the finish line. It will depend on weather conditions and on the wind. But a bunch sprint is very likely to happen," concluded Bruno Cenghialta.

 

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