Italy claimed its second Vuelta a Espana stage victory in 24 hours and Quick-Step Floors their second win in three days as Matteo Trentin followed up teammate Yves Lampaert's Sunday victory with a clinically executed sprint triumph of his own in Tarragona.
After winning a stage of the Tour de France in 2013 from a breakaway and a second stage in a bunch sprint at Nancy in 2014, and earning a victory in Pinerolo in the Giro d'Italia last year, the 28-year-old joined the ranks of riders who have won stages in all three Grand Tours in his first-ever participation in the Vuelta a Espana.
Second in Gruissan behind Lampaert during the 2017 Vuelta's first full bunch sprint on Tuesday, Trentin blasted past Juan Jose Lobato (LottoNL-Jumbo) at the end of a technical run-in with four bends in the final 300 metres.
Trentin's bike-handling skills, as well as his pure speed, were both key factors in a finish that the Italian described as "extremely complicated, and where it was more instinct than anything else that meant I could be at the front."
He also initially benefited from some excellent teamwork, as Julian Alaphilippe and Lampaert guided him through the opening segment and then Trentin began what he called "surfing between the guys. Lobato went from very far out, and as he passed me I jumped on his wheel."
"We really wanted to be up there in the last kilometre, but from 30 kilometres out, when things started going a little bit bananas, Niki Terpstra and Bob Jungels started to pull really hard and we took responsibility for the race, and I could finish it off with a nice victory."
Part of the lineup for Orica-Scott in 2018, Trentin said it was not a straightforward decision to move on from Quick-Step Floors but that "next year is next year. For now, I'm here in the Vuelta and I think winning this is a nice goodbye present for them."
Now one of the very few riders with stage victories in all three Grand Tours, Trentin described that particular achievement as "something which will take quite a while to sink in."
Trentin would not be drawn on whether there were enough sprint stages in the Grand Tours these days - in the Vuelta, there will most likely be a further grand total of two between here and Madrid - but he did concede that there's "more and more climbing in all the Grand Tours, with the exception of the Tour de France this year." His early crash in the Tour de France meant he left the race on stage 9 and did not allow him to benefit from that plethora of second- and third-week sprint stages in July, but Trentin has certainly made the most of the few available in the Vuelta.
With or without further wins in la Vuelta, Trentin said he hopes the form he gains in the Vuelta will give him some strong condition for the upcoming World Championships. Trentin has pulled off an impressive one-day victory late in the season in the past - in 2015 when he won Paris-Tours - and the Bergen Worlds lumpy-but-not-excessively difficult circuit could suit him well.
But first, in his list of priorities, Trentin insisted, comes the Vuelta, with his mission both working for David De La Cruz and going for the few sprint stage wins that are available. So far, with De La Cruz in second overall, two stage wins and a day in the leader's jersey, the Belgian squad are shining just as brightly in the Vuelta as they did in both the Giro and the Tour de France.
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