Vuelta a Espana: Peloton braced for crosswinds on stage 2

The second stage of the Vuelta a España, on Sunday, is the flattest of the whole race, with barely a metre of elevation. The riders, however - general classification contenders included - are bracing themselves for an intense and unpredictable day of racing as crosswinds are set to blow in southern France. 

The 203.4km stage from Nîmes to Narbonne, following on from Saturday's opening team time trial, heads straight towards the south coast and tracks it for the best part of 100km. 

According to weather forecasts, north-westerly winds of 35km/h - along with gusts of up to 50km/h - are set to blow straight out in the direction of the sea. 

The Bora-Hansgrohe team published a photo of their roadbook on Sunday morning, showing that the race first hits the coast after around 50km of racing, with the route soon heading right along the waterfront - notably across the Thau lagoon. After around 150km the route tracks inland before turning back towards the coast in the direction of the finish line, meaning it should be a tailwind in the closing kilometres. 

By then, though, there's the potential for plenty of damage to be done. Coupled with the winds are a series of narrow sections that will create pinch points and further opportunities for the race to split. 

"Today obviously we are expecting a bit of wind so so there's going to be a lot of tension in the bunch," Team Sky DS Nicolas Portal said. 

"The race could pretty clearly split and everyone is scared of the echelon and splits We are going to try to make the best of it."

Dimension Data DS Alex Sans Vega echoed those thoughts. "This area is well known because of the winds and today we will have strong winds," he said.

"That will be the main issue today. All the teams will push hard to stay in the front, the sprinters and GC riders to won't want to lose any time due to splits."

As for the riders, Alberto Contador underlined the fact that stages such as these can end up being just as important as summit finishes. "These are always complicated days," he said this morning. "Sometimes you can benefit but other times you can lose a lot."

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