Hello there and welcome along as we continue into the 2021 Vuelta a España. After yesterday's explosive opening time trial, it's time for the first road stage, and it's a largely flat one... but before the sprinters get too excited, we have a stiff wind blowing across much of today's 166km route.
This is the scene at the start this morning
🔏 Control de firmas Etapa 2 #LaVuelta21✍️ Signature podium Stage 2 #LaVuelta21👾 Síguelo / Follow it ➡️ https://t.co/ucxydh5v2Q 📸 @charlylopezph pic.twitter.com/uEkN3uWI9TAugust 15, 2021
We're in Caleruega this afternoon, which is still in the region of Burgos but far out of the city of Burgos, where we had yesterday's time trial. After a short jaunt south west, we'll be tracking a largely northerly path back up towards the city, and the wind will be blowing from the left. In the early stages, it looks strong enough and exposed enough to make some teams wary of the potential for splits.
Here's the map of the route. The wind is coming from the west.
The riders are signing on for the stage under bright blue skies and a hot sun. The roll-out is coming up at 13:32 local time, so in just over 10 minutes, and it's only a short neutral zone so we'll be racing not long after that.
Before we go anywhere, now's the time to catch up on yesterday's action. Full report, results, photos in the link below.
The riders are on the move.
There are more sprint opportunities than usual at this Vuelta and we have a few fast finishers on the start line, including Fabio Jakobsen (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix), Michael Matthews (BikeExchange)...
We're still in the neutral so I'll run you through the jerseys.
Red (overall leader) - Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
Green (points - on loan from Roglic) - Alex Aranburu (Astana-PremierTech)
White (best young rider) - Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
Polka-dots (mountains) - Sepp Kuss (Jumbo-Visma)
And with that, the stage is waved underway
Three riders from the Spanish Pro Conti teams immediately fire up the road.
It's Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH), Sergio Martin (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) and Xabier Mikel Azparren (Euskaltel-Euskadi).
The trio already have a minute. This looks like our breakaway of the day, established with an absolute minimum of fuss...
The gap is up at 2:30, so it's growing but not ballooning. It's a lightly downhill start and the pace is high.
The gap is up to four minutes now so no one will be trying to jump across. This is our breakaway and it just depends on how much rope they are given from here, and whether the wind does indeed blow, in which case the breakaway would soon be rendered an irrelevance.
FDJ have appeared at the head of the peloton. They have one of the big favourites in Démare and they have one of the strongest sprint teams around him.
QuickStep have joined forces with FDJ. Often the red jersey's team takes control for the early kilometres but Roglic and Jumbo-Visma don't seem interested in that.
Jakobsen is QuickStep's sprinter and he's been on quite the journey since he almost lost his life a year ago. You can read his pre-race thoughts in the piece below.
The gap comes down to 3:15 as we reach Aranda de Duero and change direction from south-west to north-west. The roads aren't exposed at this point, though.
If you fancy a longer read then today we have the cover feature from the August edition of Procycling magazine. It's an interview with Chris Froome and you can read it in full.
The gap is stable at just over three minutes after nearly 40km of racing.
Three Olympic champs on the start line
A first shot of our breakaway
🏁 Km 35 | Etapa 2 - Stage 2 | #LaVuelta21🚴🚴🚴 @SergioRMartin_ @nava13diego @azparren_99 ⏱️Pelotón a 3'14"👉https://t.co/zqaO4Bw62K📸: @charlylopezph pic.twitter.com/5n6JD65733August 15, 2021
The gap falls to 2:45. We're working our way towards the part of the route where the race could split.
At the moment we're on a short stretch west, into the wind, but then the road is turning to the north and into a more direct crosswind. It's not that strong, but the roads are starting to get more remote and exposed.
The gap continues to fall. It's down to 1:45. It's not kicking off yet, don't worry, but this increase in pace could suggest something is afoot.
The gap has nudged back out to 2:15.
DSM had moved up with a train on the right but there's no echelon urgency at all for the time being.
100km to go
Into the final 100 and our three-man breakaway holds a lead of 1:45 over a peloton where FDJ and QuickStep are controlling the pace. It's a solid pace, with these exposed roads, but the wind isn't causing any drama or damage for the time being.
We're about to get another change of direction, this time turning from the north to the north east, which would be more of a tail-cross wind. That could still cause some damage but the wind doesn't appear strong enough today after all.
The gap dips to 1:15 but now it looks like the pace has eased in the peloton.
A definite easing and the gap goes back out to two minutes.
Some more special content on the site today, in the form of a new blogger: Red Walters.
Walters is a final-year U23 rider looking to fulfil his dreams of turning pro, and he recently landed the stagiaire spot on Hagens Berman Axeon that was sponsored by Tao Geogheghan Hart. In this first instalment, Walters writes about travelling to the Caribbean to represent Grenada, and trying to land a jersey...
86km to go
Another change in direction - back towards the north. The three leaders have 2:30 in hand.
Crash. Just one rider down - Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) - and he's quickly back on his way.