Leo König almost pulled up the great coup on his very first road stage of a Grand Tour. The NetApp-Endura rider attacked for the stage win of the second stages of the Vuelta a Espana, but was happy enough to settle for fourth place. He goes into the third stage in eleventh overall, only 32 second behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
In Sunday's second stage, König was near the front going up the final climb, after the field had caught the day's break group. Inside of two km to go, the Czech rider saw that the favourites were eyeing one another, and he took his chance.
"The whole team supported me very well,” König told Cyclingnews. “Shortly before the climb it got a little hectic when I was only in 20th position. Then Daniel (Schorn) did a great last pull and brought me up to 5th. I tried to climb very hard from the beginning and I stayed on the wheels of Movistar and Saxo since they were pacing steadily which suited me. I saw Bartosz (Huzarski) and Jose (Mendes) still with me and I told Jose to hold it a little bit before he gave me an incredible pull.
“Within seconds I had to decide to attack or to wait for someone else to attack and maybe loose my chance. I looked up and thought 1,000 m to go is perfect. Unfortunately it was still 1,400 m to go. I quickly over-paced and I went on my own pace.”
Roche, Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R) all passed him in the finale, but he held on to finish fourth, 11 seconds down, and ahead of the top favourites for the race.
“Even though it didn't work out I am more than happy,” the 25-year-old climber said. “It was my first Grand Tour stage and I finished it in fourth place. I am here to learn and to take every opportunity I get. Tomorrow's stage suits more the sprinters but my chances are coming soon again."
König made his breakthrough earlier this season when he won the Queen Stage of the Amgen Tour of California, taking the win atop Mt. Diablo.
The top individual performance in the second stage came on top of the team's seventh place finish in the opening team time trial. “The team was in perfect harmony from the very beginning. No one made a mistake, everyone gave their very best. We looked at the course several times and knew what awaited us,” said sport director Enrico Poitschke.
“Our guys ran a big risk even on the descents and were rewarded with this excellent ranking. We can be very satisfied with seventh place – it was a successful start.”