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Vuelta a España 2014: Stage 2

Welcome to coverage of stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana, from Algeciras to San Fernando.

Welcome to day 2 of the Vuelta a Espana. Today's journey down to coast brings the riders from Alegeciras to San Fernando, an Island in the bay of Cadiz. We should be in for a picturesque day.

There's one small third category climb at the beginning of today's stage, but from there on it is almost pan flat so there's little doubt that it's going to be a sprinter's day. Here's a little look at what they will face today.

 

There are a few clouds in the sky, but it's still a warm day. Just over 10 minutes to go until the riders roll out and there's a last minute dash to sign on this morning. An orderly queue has formed on the stage.

Yesterday we kicked things off with a 12.6 kilometre time trial. Movistar's Jonathan Castoroviejo will wear the red jersey today for the second time in his career, after he led the team over the line. He did for the first time after the memorable TTT through Pamplona in 2012.

Here is a reminder of how things finished yesterday:

1 Movistar Team 0:14:13
2 Cannondale Pro Cycling 0:00:06
3 Orica GreenEdge
4 Trek Factory Racing 0:00:09
5 Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 0:00:11
6 Team Giant - Shimano 0:00:16
7 Tinkoff - Saxo 0:00:19
8 Belkin Pro Cycling Team
9 BMC Racing Team 0:00:21
10 Lampre - Merida 0:00:25
11 Team SKY 0:00:27
12 MTN - Qhubeka 0:00:29
13 Astana Pro Team 0:00:30
14 Lotto Belisol
15 AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:33
16 Team Katusha 0:00:38
17 IAM Cycling 0:00:40
18 Garmin Sharp 0:00:41
19 FDJ.fr 0:00:45
20 Caja Rural - Seguros RGA 0:00:48
21 Cofidis, Solutions Crédits 0:00:51
22 Team Europcar 0:01:03

Castroviejo and the team said that there had been no plan as to who would cross the line first, but it seems fitting that a rider who gives up so much to help his teammates that he should get a chance to shine. However, with the pressures of defending the jersey a drain on resources, Movistar are likely to try and pass the jersey off at some point this week. Here is what Castroviejo said after the stage.

And they're off!

It's a long neutral zone for the riders today and real racing isn't expected to get underway until 13:25 local time.

Trek Factory Racing had an up and down day yesterday. The whole team ended up on the floor after a pile-up in training. However, they managed to bounce back and finish fourth, nine seconds down on Movistar. While they were pleased to come back, the team were still disappointed to miss out on victory. Read what the team said after the stage.

While we wait for the riders to complete this 9.2km neutral zone, why not take a look at our video channel and see which riders we picked as our top 10 to watch.

#opqs #lavuelta http://t.co/ddCsxxcQ4E

@AleTegner Sun, 24th Aug 2014 12:12:42

Alberto Contador was one of the riders to feature in our top 10 to watch. The Spaniard is racing despite breaking his leg at the Tour de France. He still had his knee strapped up during yesterday's team time trial, but he managed to keep up with the team, who finished seventh. That is a victory within its self for Contador and you can read what he said after the stage here.

There are suspicions that Contador has been back to training a lot longer than he and the team has let on. Whatever the truth is, he looked comfortable during the time trial. The mountains will be the big test for Contador and his form.

Not long until we get racing on stage two. The one and only categorised climb comes almost immediately after the flag is dropped. This is a prime place to try and force a break, so we can expect to see a lot of action right from the word go.

No sooner have we said that and the flag has been dropped and the racing is on.

We have our first attack of the day. The six men that have got away are Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Kristian Sbaragli (MTN-Qhubeka), Nathan Haas (Garmin-Sharp), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis)

The six men out front now have a gap of 45 seconds on the peloton, who seem happy to let them go for now.

It looks like it's first time lucky for the six escapees. With a gap of 2:25, they look like the day's break.

Grand Tours always throw up some memorable moments and during the Vuelta a Espana we're taking a look back at some of the most iconic stages. First up is the day that Miguel Indurain called it quits during the 1996 Vuelta and put an end to his career.

We've lost two men from the escape group, with Haas and Sbaragli dropping off the back. Only four riders remain out front.

Apologies, Haas and Sbaragli have actually gone off the front and not the back. Haas takes the points at the top f the climb and will get at least a day in the mountains  jersey. Sbaragli takes second with Conti taking the final points.

This is the second Grand Tour for Nathan Haas this season. Haas made his GT debut at the Giro d'Italia in May. The mountains jersey, even if his time in it may be short, will be a boost to the team after the team time trial yesterday. Garmin were once the men to beat in the team event, but have not been able to live up to that for a couple of years now. The American team finished 41 seconds down on Movistar in yesterday's TTT.

Haas' companion out front is Kristian Sbaragli. The Italian turned professional With MTN-Qhubeka last season and makes his Grand Tour debut with the team. In fact six of the nine MTN riders are making their debut. His teammate Merhawi Kudus is one of those expected to make a splash over the next three weeks.

So after their little dig up the climb, Haas and Sbaragli have actually been caught by the Movistar led peloton. We have four riders out front with a gap of 3:40.

The four men out front are: Francisco Javier Aramendia (Caja Rural) Jacques Janse Van Rensburg (MTN-Qhubeka), Valerio Conti (Lampre-Merida) and Romain Hardy (Cofidis)

There are only a couple of small lumps for the riders to contend with just before the halfway point, which will hardly trouble any of the riders. Just after that, there is the first of two intermediate sprints. There are bonus seconds available at these sprints, as well as points for the green points competition.

Unless we see a last dash attempt upsetting the order of things, today is likely to end in a bunch sprint. Nacer Bouhanni, Peter Sagan, Michael Matthews and John Degenkolb will all be up for it today. Who do you think will win? Will is be one of these four or will it be someone else? Will a last ditch solo attempt take it? Let us know on @Cyclingnewsfeed or @SadhbhOS and we'll post some of your predictions here.

132km remaining from 174km

Out front, the gap to our four riders has gone up ever so slightly to 3:44. The average speed over the first hour is a relatively calm 42kph for the escapees.

Despite announcing his intentions to move to Cofidis next season, FDJ are still putting their efforts behind Nacer Bouhanni in the sprint. After winning three stages and the points competition, Bouhanni will be favourite to do it at the Vuelta. Cyclingnews' Barry Ryan spoke to Bouhanni yesterday to get his thoughts on his final race with FDJ. You can read what he said here.

Elsewhere in the cycling world Chantal Blaak has won the Vårgārda round of the World Cup. We await the full results to see if Lizzie Armitstead or Emma Johansson takes the overall competition.

With bonus seconds available at the finish, the leader's jersey is within the grasp of a few riders. Orica-GreenEdge finished third in yesterday's team time trial, giving Michael Matthews a realistic shot at taking the jersey in San Fernando.

 

He had this to say this morning: "The jersey is only six seconds ahead so it's definitely in reach. We'll see how it goes for the sprint but it might be a tricky one. I'll look around for top positions but the real goal is tomorrow with a finale that suits me better."

Our four escapees have upped the pace now and their gap continues to grow, it is now 3:58.

It's not often that you see the number one dossard in a break on day 2 of a Grand Tour, but it is on the back of Valerio Conti. The Italian was a late call-up to the team after Chris Horner was pulled from the race due to low cortisol levels. It is the 21-year-old's first Grand Tour and it looks like he's keen to prove his worth.

Cannondale is another team that are within touching distance of the leader's jersey today. However, they won't be putting their efforts behind Peter Sagan, who said "I am here to help my teammates," ahead of the stage. Cannondale are putting their eggs in Oscar Gatto's basket. Here is what the Italian had to say this morning:

 

"We've spoken about taking the jersey at the team meeting. The goal is to take the red jersey. We'll try anything we can, through the intermediate sprints or the finale. Peter is here to prepare for the world championships. I'm the team's sprinter today."

There is a bit of wind at the finish, which could play a role in the sprint finish. It's also a fairly hot day out there at 35 degrees.

The gap to the escapees is bouncing around a 10 second window. It's stuck between 3:45 and 3:55 for now, they're yet to break the four minute barrier.

Team Sky is one of the teams that didn't perform as expected at yesterday's time trial. With all the focus on Chris Froome at the race, they'll be playing it safe for the first week. As Froome said yesterday, they hoped for a better start to the race.

This morning when the peloton left Algeciras an unusual homage was planned in honour of flamenco guitarist all-time great Paco de Lucia, from that city who died earlier this year: the bunch were due to ride twice round the roundabout bearing his name.

We're nearing the halfway point of this stage and the peloton has cut down the advantage of the four men out front to 3:32. As it stands, Conti is the virtual race leader.

Going back to the Open Suede Vargarda and it has been confirmed that Lizzie Armitstead has won the World Cup. She has led the competition from start to finish and becomes the first Brit since Nicol Cooke in 2006 to win the competition.

Andrea Guardini is likely to be the man to push Bouhanni in the sprint today. The Italian has not ridden a Grand Tour since joining Astana at the beginning of last season. He's had a good run into the race with victories at the Eneco Tour and the Tour of Denmark and is confident of his form.

 

Here is what Guardini had to say at the start: "It's a stage for sprinters today. I've learned at the Eneco Tour that I'm not inferior to Bouhanni. I'm thinking of winning a stage here. I feel much better since I was diagnosed with an allergy to lactose in June and July. I don't drink milk in the morning anymore. I also had a virus for a year and half. I've lost two and half kilos recently. I'm at my best weight, the same I had at the end of the Giro two and half years ago."

We've spoken about Conti, but lets take a close look at the other three escapees. First up is Jacques Janse Van Rensburg. Despite the name, he is not related to Giant-Shimano's Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (a mistake I have fallen foul to in the past). Janse Van Rensburg, who was recently named in South Africa's World Championship squad, is one of the six riders in the MTN-Qhubeka team that is making their Grand Tour debut. The 26-year-old rode at the Vuelta a Burgos for his preparation and finished an admirable 23rd in the general classification. He's taken two victories this season, with a stage and overall victory at the Mzansi Tour in April.

The peloton has sat up a little and allowed our four escapees a little more breathing space. The gap has now ballooned to 4.58 as we complete our second hour of racing.

Our next rider is Caja Rural's Javier Aramendia. The 27-year-old used to ride for Euskaltel, with who he turned professional in 2008, but left the team at the end of 2011. Aramendia is yet to take his first professional victory.

Our final rider is Cofidis' Romain Hardy. The Frenchman has had a solid season with third overall at the Tour of Turkey, behind Adam Yates and Rein Taaramae, and fourth place at Paris-Camembert.His best result since turning professional in 2011 a stage win and the young riders' classification at the Tour du Haut Var in 2012.

The leaders have passed through the first intermediate sprint. Janse Van Rensburg takes the full points with Conti and Aramendia hovering up second and third.

Garmin-Sharp was one of the big losers yesterday. Over the short 12.6km time trial, they lost 41 seconds on Movistar. Today they've made up for it a little with Haas taking the only mountains points available today, but directeur sportif Bingen Fernandez says the riders were hampered by the memory of the Giro d'Italia crash.

Elsewhere in the world Jens Voigt is about to finish his farewell tour of America at the USA Pro Challenge. The German has been his usual agressive self this week. Cyclingnews spoke to a few of the riders to get their thoughts on the fan favourite. You can watch the video here and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

The leaders have passed the 100km mark now and their gap has come down to 4:35. There is still a little way to go for them to reach the second intermediate sprint.

Cadel Evans has told Cyclingnews that he is not the leader for BMC at this year's Vuelta a Espana. The veteran rider says that he will be assisting fellow vet Samuel Sanchez. The Spaniard finished second in the 2009 Vuelta. Here is what Evans had to say.

FDJ is sharing the pace setting on the peloton with Movistar and Giant-Shimano. Movistar are keeping the leader Jonathan Castroviejo safe, while FDJ and Giant are working for their men Nacer Bouhanni and John Degenkolb.

There is still 4:18 separating the peloton and the peloton and the leaders. The wind continues to blow fairly hard and it has the potential to spoil things for the sprinters. Who are your picks for today? Let us know on twitter on @Cyclingnewsfeed and @SadhbhOS

It looks like the time gap we've been given was wrong. Just ahead of the second intermediate sprint, the leader's advantage falls to 3:14 over the peloton.

It's not just the wind that can trip up some of the stage favourites today. The finish in San Fernando is a tight and twisty one. San Fernando is an Island and the riders will be taking the narrow route towards Cadiz to get there. There are also four 90 degree turns in the final two kilometres, which pose a difficult challenge.

Being the race leader doesn't get you out of team duties. Castroviejo has been spotted fetching bidons for his teammates.

Crash in the peloton

Debusschere, Kudus and Fellin all down. The first two are quickly back on their bikes and chasing back on, but Fellin took much longer to get going. The Trek rider looks like he's fallen on his shoulder, as he has a rip on the back of his shoulder. He is back on but looking a little tentative.

Conti beats Hardy to the intermediate the second intermediate sprint. There is bonus points available and will move himself closer to that leader's jersey.

39km remaining from 174km

The peloton are currently passing through the town of Puerto Real with 39km remaining. The gap is still just over two minutes.

The gap is really coming down now and the leaders look like they're getting tired. They've only got 1:36 on the peloton now.

Tinkoff-Saxo rider Matteo Tosatto suffers a puncture.

Several teams on the front of the group now, including Tinkoff-Saxo, MTN-Qhubeka, Giant-Shimano and Team Sky. Nobody wants to be in the wrong place if the wind picks up.

Team Sky is one of the many teams on the front at the moment. They're hoping to keep Froome out of trouble if the crosswinds make an appearance at the finish. "Today's goal is to stay safe. It looks like there is less and less wind towards the finish. I want to stay at the front anyway, in case of crosswinds. The sprint can be tricky with gaps opening up. My main objective is to get through," Froome said at the start this morning.

Less than a minute for the leaders now with just over 30km remaining. How long will the peloton allow them to stay out there?

29km remaining from 174km

If the leaders are caught too early, we can expect a lot of attacks pinging off the front. The twisty little finish could benefit a solo rider or small group if they can time it correctly.

The riders are in Puerto de Santa María and the peloton has the four escapees in their sights. It won't be long before they're brought back.

The small roads in Puerto de Santa María has forced a few riders to unclip as the go through a bottle neck. It has given the four leaders a stay of execution, but their time out front is numbered.

#LaVuelta Waiting at the finish for our boys... 25km to go, 21" gap! http://t.co/LXQAMsZOAZ

@TeamMTNQhubeka Sun, 24th Aug 2014 15:55:43

Carlos Betancur is sitting near the back of the peloton at the moment. Betancur will be leaving AG2R at the end of the season, despite having two more years on his contract. His destination is unknown though.

20km remaining from 174km

The peloton has eased up a touch. They don't want to catch these four guys too early and make more work for themselves. The gap went back out to 30 seconds, but it is slowly coming back down.

18km remaining from 174km

The riders are currently being helped along by a tailwind and the brief slowing of the peloton has ended. They've caught three of the four escapees, with Janse Van Rensburg the last man out there.

Janse Van Rensburg has now been caught by the peloton and it's all together with 17 kilometres still to go.

A short little aside from the Vuelta as Alexander Kristoff wins the Vattenfall Cyclassics, beating Trek Factory's Giacomo Nizzolo.

Tinkoff-Saxo is setting the pace on the front of the peloton. However, Alberto Contador is sitting a little further back. The road is fairly narrow at the moment, so all the GC riders are trying to stay stage up front.

The sprinters' teams are having a lot of trouble trying to get in between the GC teams. Caja Rural and Orica GreenEdge have done it, but Lotto has been boxed out for now.

Caja Rural are likely to be working for their Italia sprinter Francesco Lasca, but he's going to have a tough job against some of the stronger guys in that group.

Peter Kennaugh (Sky) and Daniele Benatti (Tinkoff-Saxo) are driving the front. They're not making it easy for the sprinters.

8km remaining from 174km

Cannondale make their first appearance on the front today. They've said that they will be working for Oscar Gatto today. Will Peter Sagan be riding leadout for him?

7km remaining from 174km

The sprinters' teams have finally won the battle with the GC teams. IAM, Lotto and GIant are all present. Sky is still doing a lot of work on the front, however.

5km remaining from 174km

The kilometres are ticking down very quickly at the moment. The peloton has plenty of room to move for now, but it's all going to get very twisty very soon.

The speed has gone up to 63kph as the sprinters teams push towards the finish.

We've got 3km to go and Astana are now coming up to the front. Sky still doing a lot of work on the front and the peloton is all strung out.

2km remaining from 174km

The pace set by the GC teams has split the peloton. Big sprinters are all safe though.

As Alex Ferguson said once, it's squeeky bum time. Four turns in the final two kilometres.

A lot of riders losing out on turn just after the flamme rouge. FDJ on the front

Bouhanni goes

Bouhanni wins

There was a little rise in the final few hundred metres. Bouhanni went right at the bottom of it and held off all the other sprinters. A convincing victory.

Degenkolb was catching Bouhanni in the closing metres, but he timed his sprint poorly. Looks like Ferrari finished just behind him for third.

So here are your top 10 for the finish today

1. Nacer Bouhanni

2. John Degenkolb

3. Roberto Ferrari

4. Jasper Stuyven

5. Francesco Lasca

6. Oscar Gatto

7. Yauheni Hutarovich

8. Tom Boonen

9. Moreno Hofland

10. Matteo Pelucchi

You have to commend FDJ, they rode those final two kilometres perfectly and Bouhanni delivered. He won't be taking the leader's jersey but he does take the points jersey.

We now await confirmation of the GC and if Castroviejo has held onto his red jersey.

"We worked very hard for this and at the last moment we were in the right position. It's a great day for not only me but the whole team. You've go tot take your chances when you can. To get one at the Vuelta is great. Each time I race I want to win and we will see if I can take some more," said Nacer Bouhanni at the finish.

Movistar keep hold of the leader's jersey but it is now Alejandro Valverde who will be in red tomorrow with Nairo Quintana behind him in second. All the time gaps in the top 10 remain the same as yesterday.

Tomorrow's stage from Cádiz to Arcos de la Frontera is a longer one for the peloton at 197..8km and has four classified climbs.

You can get all the information from today's stage here, including full results, gallery and race report.

Nacer Bouhanni and @EquipeFDJ really made it look easy today. That last minute "back-to-front" recovery by Soupe made the difference. Bravo!

@mrconde Sun, 24th Aug 2014 16:39:01

That's it from us today. Stick with Cyclingnews for all the reaction from today's stage and come back tomorrow for live coverage of stage three.

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