Team Columbia's Greg Henderson grabbed the sprint victory and the overall lead in the Vuelta Murcia on a stage which was drastically shortened due to high winds on Thursday. The New Zealander bested Euskaltel-Euskadi's Ruben Perez and countryman Julian Dean (Garmin-Slipstream), taking the overall lead from the shoulders of Australian Graeme Brown of Rabobank.
Normally, the 175-kilometre route would not have been the domain of the sprinters as it featured the Alto de San Juan, a category one climb which rises to 1,227m, but organisers were forced to skip the climb shorten the stage and due to wind gusts of up to 90km/h.
At first, the race jury planned to cut out the climb, leaving about 100km of racing, but the strong, gusty winds, rain and even hail caused them to neutralise all but the final three kilometres of the stage.
"We raced for about 50 kilometres but then it got very windy and guys were getting blown off the road, so the organisers decided to neutralise most of the stage," Henderson explained. "They then told us that the racing would start again just three kilometres from the line. When we reached that point of the course, everybody knew that was when racing would start so there'd been a lot of fighting for position beforehand. On top of that it had just started to rain and the road surfaces weren't brilliant, so it was all very tense."
"I took one right-hand curve well," added Henderson, "and then was about fifth or sixth back coming into a second bend, a sharp left-hander, with about 350 metres to go. Me and Hoffie [sports director Tristan Hoffman] had looked at the route book during the stage to get an idea of the finish and he'd told me to take this corner full gas. It was only when I came into the corner in fifth or sixth place at full gas and noticed at the last moment that everybody else was braking that I got worried!"
Henderson held on to take the stage comfortably and don the overall leader's jersey, but he is uncertain whether he will be able to maintain his standing in Friday's 16km time trial.
"I'll do my best to defend the lead in the time trial tomorrow. Even though time trialing is not really my thing, I'll give it 100 percent and see what happens."
See also the full results of the Vuelta Murcia stage two.