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Vuelta a España 2013: Stage 2

Live coverage of stage 2 of the Vuelta a España, 177.7km from Pontevedra to Alto do Monte da Groba.

126km remaining from 177km

As we pick up the action at the foot of the category 3 Alto de San Cosme, a three-man break featuring Alex Rasmussen (Garmin-Sharp), Greg Henderson (Lotto Belisol) and Francisco Aramandia (Caja Rural) has a lead of 9 minutes over the peloton.

The move formed inside the opening kilometre of racing. When Greg Henderson jumped clear, Rasmussen and Aramendia were instantly across to his wheel and with a tough summit finish to come later this afternoon, the peloton was happy to leave the trio to it.

Henderson and Rasmussen are strong rouleurs, while Aramendia owned a seemingly perpetual membership of early breakaway attempts at last year's Vuelta, and so it's no surprise that they have worked very smoothly together thus far. They covered some 45 kilometres in the first hour of racing, which brought them along the Atlantic coastline and through Vigo.

Our race leader is Janez Brajkovic, after he led a very strong and well-organised Astana outfit over the line in Sanxenxo last night. It's hard to believe that seven years have now passed since he briefly held the overall lead in the Vuelta during his grand tour debut as a raw 22-year-old.

General classification after stage 1:

1 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana Pro Team 0:29:59
2 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team
3 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita) Astana Pro Team
4 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team
5 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team
6 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team
7 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:10
8 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard
9 Markel Irizar Aranburu (Spa) RadioShack Leopard
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard

122km remaining from 177km

Out on the road, Greg Henderson holds the provisional overall lead. The New Zealander is the best-placed of the breakaway on general classification, lying 1:14 down in 74th place overall before the stage began.

Meanwhile, the break's lead has now stretched out to in excess of ten minutes, thanks in no small part to the forcing of Alex Rasmussen on the climb. The Dane's Garmin-Sharp squad have been reduced to 8 riders following the abandon of Koldo Fernandez, and before the start, Johnny Weltz talked Cyclingnews' Alasdair Fotheringham through the crash that disrupted Garmin's team time trial yesterday evening.

The Alto de San Cosme is the only climb in the first 100 miles of racing today, but the stage finishes with a remarkably tough climb for such an early juncture in a grand tour. The Vuelta won't be won atop the category 1 Alto do Monte da Groba (11km at 5.6%) but we certainly could see the GC ambitions of a number of riders being downscaled on its slopes. Alasdair Fotheringham has reconnoitred the climb for us.

113km remaining from 177km

Aramendia, Ramussen and Henderson have crossed the summit of the Alto de San Cosme, and their lead has stretched out to 11 minutes over the as yet disinterested peloton.

Aramendia led the trio over the summit, claiming the points ahead of Henderson and Rasmussen.

99km remaining from 177km

Inside the final 100 kilometres and for now the Astana team of Brajkovic and Vincenzo Nibali are more than happy to allow the escapees' adventure continue. The three leaders have 11:37 in hand on the peloton.

While Brajkovic wears the red jersey this afternoon, Nibali could well inherit it at the finish. Certainly, the Sicilian enjoyed an unexpected bonus in yesterday's team time trial, making some significant gains on his general classification rivals. After just 27km of racing, he had 22 seconds on Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao (Sky), 29 seconds on Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), 32 on Roman Kreuziger and Rafal Majka (Saxo-Tinkoff), 56 on Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Merida), 59 on Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and 1:26 on Ivan Basso (Cannondale).

88km remaining from 177km

Alex Rasmussen led the trio of escapees through the intermediate sprint at Ponteareas and their advantage has stretched out still further, to 12:37.

It's fair to say that Gazzetta dello Sport has been excited that Vincenzo Nibali's exploits this season, and the headline on its report of last night's stage was a typically breathless. "Mamma mia, what a Nibali," it screamed. North of the Alps, L'Equipe's cycling section led with an interview with Joaquim Rodriguez, who told the newspaper:"I deserve to win a grand tour." In Spain, meanwhile, the front page of Marca was dedicated to Gareth Bale's impending arrival at Real Madrid rather than the action at the Vuelta.

78km remaining from 177km

For the first time, the break's lead appears to have stopped rising and remains stable at around 12:30. Astana are the only team riding at the front of the peloton, but for now, they seem concerned only with keeping tabs on the break rather than working to reduce the deficit.

Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) has raced sparingly this season but the soon-to-be 42-year-old is nothing if not ambitious. After his team's strong showing yesterday's team time trial, the American is hopeful that he can move into the red jersey this afternoon and he is optimistic about his chances further down the line. "The result we got in the team time trial let me think that I’m right to continue racing despite my age," Horner said. “I’d like to get the red
jersey today. I’m only ten seconds down. My goal is to make the top 3 of the Vuelta overall.”

Horner, who finished second at the recent Tour of Utah, has not raced in Europe since he abandoned the Volta a Catalunya in March. His only other race this season was Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished 6th overall.

73km remaining from 177km

The three leaders has pushed their advantage out to 13 minutes. Rasmussen, Henderson and Aramendia will certainly survive out in front until the foot of the final climb, but they will need to maintain a healthy portion of their current buffer to have any hope of hanging on for the stage win.

Henderson, of course, has won an early stage of the Vuelta before, albeit in very different circumstances. Indeed, it was in a different country. Henderson zipped off the front in the finale of stage 3 in Venlo in the Netherlands in 2009 to become the first New Zealander to win a Vuelta stage since Paul Jesson won in Santander in 1980.

57km remaining from 177km

It's interesting to see Lampre-Merida joining Astana at the front of the peloton. The Italian squad are perhaps confident in Michele Scarponi and Winner Anacona's chances on the final climb, but in any case, Astana and Nibali will doubtless be grateful for the help...

54km remaining from 177km

The race was hugging the Portuguese border, which is formed by the river Minho, for the past 15 kilometres or so, but is now heading back towards the coast, where the second intermediate sprint will take place at A Guarda with 41km to race.

There has been a definite injection of urgency in the peloton over the past 10 kilometres are so, as the general classification contenders start to sit up and take notice. Ivan Basso has a cohort of Cannondale riders around him near the front of the race, while Movistar are also guiding Alejandro Valverde forward with purpose.

48km remaining from 177km

The break's advantage is beginning to tumble, though only slightly. The gap to the bunch is now 11:22. The trio are continuing to collaborate smoothly, however, with Henderson putting in a long, steady turn on the front.

Sky's Colombian pair of Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran are also moving towards the front of the peloton, which continues to be led by Lampre-Merida and Astana.

42km remaining from 177km

Rasmussen battles gamely to keep the pace in the break high as they tackle a stinging false flat. The trio are putting up fierce resistance here and they are conceding ground lightly. Lampre-Merida and Astana's pursuit has thus far only reduced their gap to 10:44.

41km remaining from 177km

Greg Henderson sprints for the points at the second intermediate sprint in A Guarda, with no discernible opposition from Rasmussen and Aramendia.

39km remaining from 177km

The break is a shade under 30 kilometres from the foot of the final climb and their advantage is starting to fall at a steady rhythm now. 9:35 is the gap now, as Dutch champion Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) steps  up to the plate to add some firepower to the pursuit at the front of the peloton.

36km remaining from 177km

The break had the breeze at its back en route to the second intermediate sprint but now the leaders must deal with a crosswind as they ride back along the Atlantic coastline. Their gap is down to 8:17.

Bauke Mollema (Belkin) is sitting at the rear of the peloton, but the Dutchman appears comfortable and is about to be nursed towards the front by a cadre of his teammates. Belkin, of course, are without the services of Theo Bos at his Vuelta. In keeping with MPCC regulations, the sprinter was sent home before the start yesterday after he returned low levels of cortisol in a pre-Vuelta control.

33km remaining from 177km

As the break grinds through a segment of headwind, their lead falls to 7:36, while Lampre-Merida continue to wind up the pace in the peloton behind. The average speed so far today is a shade over 40kph.

32km remaining from 177km

Janez Brajkovic is looking very comfortable in the red jersey, as he sits in fifth position in the main peloton. Further back in the heart of the bunch, Joaquim Rodriguez is surrounded by a gaggle of Katusha teammates. The Catalan will be looking to take back some of the time he lost in the team time trial on the final climb today.

Meanwhile, in Hamburg, John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) has won the Vattenfall Cyclassics, beating Andre Greipel and Alexander Kristoff in the sprint.

28km remaining from 177km

The pace will continue to rise in the main peloton all the way to the foot of the Alto de Monte da Groba, and the speed. Positioning will be crucial given that the toughest section of the climb is at the bottom, and given that the road narrows on a sharp right-hand turn just the climb begins.

 

27km remaining from 177km

Henderson, Rasmussen and Aramendia's lead is now inside seven minutes, thanks in no small part to the added impetus of Johnny Hoogerland to the chase efforts behind.

26km remaining from 177km

Indeed, the time gap has been updated to just 5:34. The headwind over the past ten kilometres or so has been very detrimental to the escapees' hopes of staying clear to fight out the stage win. They're still 15 kilometres shy of the foot of the category 1 final climb.

22km remaining from 177km

Henderson, Aramendia and Rasmussen are refusing to give up the ghost here, even though the gap has fallen below five minutes and they are shipping seconds every time they hit a rise in the road. Lampre-Merida continue to lead the pursuit behind, with Scarponi, Anaconda and Diego Ulissi sitting in the wheels.

19km remaining from 177km

Red jersey Janez Brajkovic (Astana) is near the back of the peloton but he looks to move up by riding along a cycle path in the company of Bauke Mollema (Belkin).

17km remaining from 177km

Lampre are now longer controlling affairs at the front of the peloton, and now a number of teams are forming trains of sorts to marhsal their leaders to the front ahead of the foot of the climb. Movistar and Sky, in particular, are trying to position Valverde, Henao and Uran before the road starts to go skywards.

15km remaining from 177km

The break's lead is down to 3:50, which will not be sufficient for any of the trio to stay clear of Nibali, Rodriguez et al on the tough final haul to Alto de Monte da Groba.

14km remaining from 177km

A long stint on the front of the bunch from Argos-Shimano - with Warren Barguil in mind - has reduced the break's lead to just three minutes on the final approach to the foot of the climb.

Belkin hit the front and a glance at the TV motorbike's speedometer suggests that the bunch is touching speeds of 70kph. Small wonder that the break's lead has rapidly been slashed to just 2:20.

12km remaining from 177km

The break approaches the foot of the climb with just over a minute in hand on the peloton.

11km remaining from 177km

Aramendia leads the break on the lower slopes of the climb. Meanwhile, the battle for positioning in the main peloton behind is frantic as they approach that sharp turn into the base of the ascent.

11km remaining from 177km

Pablo Lastras sets the tempo for Movistar at the foot of the climb, while Greg Henderson sits up at the front and waits for the fast-closing bunch.

Interesting to note FDJ's young duo Thibaut Pinot and Alexandre Geniez sitting near the front of the bunch on the climb. Movistar continue to set the tempo as they close in on Aramendia and Rasmussen.

10km remaining from 177km

Aramendia and Rasmussen have 11 seconds in hand on the bunch, but their defiance surely won't last much longer, particurly given the force of Movistar's pace-setting behind.

Ramussen and Aramendia are duly caught, while Movistar's pace-making is starting to jettison riders out the back of the large red jersey group.

9km remaining from 177km

Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) jumps clear of the red jersey group and opens a gap of 50 metres or so.

Movistar continue to set tempo in the red jersey group, but Astana are keeping tabs on affairs with Jakob Fuglsang and Vincenzo Nibali well-positioned.

8km remaining from 177km

Txurruka is reeled back in by the peloton, led by Movistar's Jose Herrada. Nibali and Fuglsang remain well-placed, but so far there has been no sign of race leader Janez Brajkovic on the climb.

Janez Brajkovic is sitting near the rear of the reduced leading peloton, and the Slovenian may well struggle to hold on to his red jersey this afternoon.

7km remaining from 177km

Herrada's tempo has stretched the peloton but there are still more than 50 riders in there, including all of the overall contenders.

That said, a number of the overall contenders are struggling. Samuel Sanchez is near the back and suffering, while Brajkovic is losing contact.

Back at the front, meanwhile, Nibali, Fuglsang and Alejandro Valverde are all pedalling smoothly and are very well positioned.

6km remaining from 177km

We guessed that at least one overall contender was going to struggle today, and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) looks set to be the man who loses out. The former Olympic champion has lost touch with the front group and is struggling.

Janez Brajkovic is hanging on in there, but the peloton is strung out in a long line, and the red jersey is near the very back of that string.

Herrada's tempo is ensuring that the bunch is stretched and he is successfully dissuading attacks. His leader Valverde sits confidently on Nibali's wheel, while Saxo-Tinkoff duo Kreuziger and Majka are up there, Belkin's Laurens ten Dam and Mollema, and Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard).

5km remaining from 177km

Samuel Sanchez is 45 seconds down on the leaders, and Sergio Henao (Sky) has also been dropped by the red jersey group. Rigoberto Uran, assuming he's still in there, may be about to inherit the leadership of Team Sky.

4km remaining from 177km

Sylvester Szmyd takes over on the front for Movistar, who are controlling affairs as the road flattens out. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is still safely ensconced near the front of the bunch, waiting for the road to kick up again in the final three kilometres.

3km remaining from 177km

Movistar now have five men drilling on the front and the red jersey group has been reduced to 20 riders or so. Brajkovic is still hanging in there at the very back.

3km remaining from 177km

Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) are also still in the leading group, which is positively hurtling towards the final section of the climb.

2km remaining from 177km

Henao has lost 36 seconds on the red jersey group as Movistar continue to wind up the pace.

2km remaining from 177km

Movistar's pace is such that nobody can even contemplate attacking. It could all come down to a sprint for bonus seconds at the summit, and they'll back their man Valverde in that fight.

1km remaining from 177km

Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) rips clear of the red jersey group. There is no response and he has managed to open a gap of 50 metres.

Brajkovic is now struggling at the rear of the leading group.

1km remaining from 177km

Dani Moreno (Katusha) counters and zips across to Konig, with Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r) on his wheel.

Konig, Moreno, Roche and Pozzovivo have a gap over the favourites' group and should fight out the stage win between themselves.

The road kicks up with 600 metres to go and Pozzovivo launches a rasping attack.

Pozzovivo doesn't have the legs to stay away, however. He's reeled in with 400 metres to go, and Nicolas Roche attacks immediately.

Roche opens a gap as the road flattens out and the Irishman looks set to claim the win.

Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) wins stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana. Dani Moreno (Katusha) takes second place, but he couldn't get back on terms with the Irishman.

Pozzovivo came home in third ahead of Konig, while it seems Valverde led the group of favourites home 15 seconds or so down on Roche.

Even allowing for the time bonus, Roche won't have done enough to take the red jersey, which ought to stay with Astana. The question is whether or not Brajkovic succeeded in hanging onto the group of favourites.

Henao and Sanchez are the big losers of the day, although we're waiting on confirmation of their precise losses. The rest of the overall contenders seem to have all finished more or less together behind Valverde, 12 seconds down on Roche.

Brajkovic lost contact with the group of favourites in the finale, and it appears that the red jersey has passed to Vincenzo Nibali.

Result:

1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team
6 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
7 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling

Roche becomes the third Irishman in the past five years to win a stage of the Vuelta a Espana. His cousin Dan Martin won two years ago, while Donegal's Philip Deignan set the ball rolling for the current generation of Irish talent with a fine win in Avila in 2009.

Result:

1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha 00:00:02
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 00:00:06
4 Leopold Konig (Cze) Team NetApp-Endura 00:00:11
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:12
6 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
7 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling 00:00:14
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team
10 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling

General classification:

1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 5:07:22
2 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:08
3 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:10
4 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:10
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:10
6 Rigoberto Uran Uran (Col) Sky Procycling 0:00:22
7 Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack Leopard 0:00:27
8 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:27
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:32
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:32

Samuel Sanchez lost four minutes on the final climb, and all hope of overall victory, while Sergio Henao's podium chances also suffered a blow in the finale. Vincenzo Nibali, meanwhile, kept his cards close to his chest for much of the afternoon, but has moved into an early overall lead.

Thanks for joining us for today's live coverage from the Vuelta. A full report, results and pictures will be here shortly, and we'll be back with more live coverage from tomorrow's stage to Mirador de Lobeira. In the meantime, all the news and reaction from Spain will be here on Cyclingnews

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