Some part of the road between here and Santiago de Compostela will eventually decide the Ineos Grenadiers hierarchy at this Vuelta a España, but it wasn’t the portion of the N-627 that led into Burgos at the end of stage 2. Although Adam Yates lost 31 seconds there after he was caught behind a crash with 4.2 kilometres remaining, he maintains his place alongside Egan Bernal and Richard Carapaz in the team’s triumvirate of leaders.
“It doesn’t change our plans because we’ve always said, like in any race, that the climbs are where we will see who is better or worse,” Ineos directeur sportif Matteo Tosatto told Cyclingnews on Sunday evening. “We’ve got three cards: Egan is coming back after winning the Giro, Carapaz is coming off a great Tour and Olympics, and Adam has prepared well for the Vuelta.
“Now we’ll see in the climbs. We’re going to try to do a good Vuelta with these three lads. And, like we all know, the road will tell us who is the strongest.”
Carapaz and Bernal finished safely in the front group on stage 2 having been piloted expertly through the finale by Dylan van Baarle, and they remain 25 and 27 seconds, respectively, behind maillot rojo Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma). Yates, Ineos’ best performer in Saturday’s opening time trial, now drops to 56th overall, some 51 seconds down on the Slovenian.
“The crash happened right in front of Adam. Fortunately, he managed not to fall and he started again quickly, but you know if you’re caught behind that close to the finish on a stage like that, you can lose time,” Tosatto said. “But the most important thing is that he didn’t fall.”
Yates was not the only Ineos rider to concede ground in the finale, though Tosatto clarified that Paval Sivakov, who lost 1:15, had already sat up before the crash that split the peloton on the run-in. “Pavel worked a lot during the stage. He’s not here to ride for GC but to help the team, and he’ll be an important help to the lads in the climbs,” said Tosatto.
It was a similar story for Tom Pidcock, who eased out of the rear of the peloton inside the final 10 kilometres, having ridden on behalf of his leaders earlier on. The Briton was crowned Olympic mountain bike champion in Tokyo, and working towards that event was, by his own admission, not entirely compatible with preparing for his Grand Tour debut.
“It’s normal because he was preparing for a race of an hour and 25 minutes at the Olympics, but he has a lot of class,” said Tosatto. “He knows he’s never done a Grand Tour and he needs to gain experience, but he’s someone who will be very useful to our cause here.”
Ineos’ trio of leaders were always likely to begin this Vuelta on the back foot given that the race began with a time trial so suited to Roglič’s characteristics, though it was hard to escape the sense that Bernal conceded a little more ground than anticipated in the 7.1 kilometre test in Burgos on Saturday evening.
“We’d have been happier if we’d only lost 18 or 20 seconds, of course, but we’re calm about it,” Tosatto said. “Egan did well on the climb at the start but he didn’t take any risks on the descent and then we knew Roglič would do well on the flat because he’s Olympic time trial champion, but we’re happy.”
Although first week of this Vuelta has a rather flatter profile than normal, the organisation has maintained its modern tradition of providing a significant early rendezvous for the general classification contenders. Stage 3 finishes atop the category 1 climb of Picón Blanco and while there are more demanding tests to come later in the race, the distance (202km), the heat and the wickedly steep gradients could provoke early separation, even if Tosatto expects the gaps to be measured in seconds rather than minutes.
Bernal sampled the climb at the Vuelta a Burgos ten days ago, where he put in a notable show of forcing midway up the ascent before fading closer to the summit. He was on deluxe domestique duty on that occasion, but on Monday, the Colombian is racing for keeps.
“Egan wasn’t going for the stage in Burgos, he was working for Pavel,” said Tosatto. “But it was certainly a good recon because he saw how the climb is. Every race has a different story, so we’ll see tomorrow how the stage goes and how everybody’s legs are.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.