Stage 2: Pamplona – Viana 181km

Vuelta a España 2: Degenkolb gets sprint win

John Degenkolb (Argos Shimano) crosses the line to win stage 2 of the Vuelta (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

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John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) won the second stage of the Vuelta a
España, taking the mass sprint in Pamplona. Allan Davis
(Orica-GreenEdge) and Ben Swift (Sky) took second and third. Jonathan
Castroviejo (Movistar) easily defended his overall lead.

The young German came from third wheel with only meters left to go, nipping his two rivals at the line.

A three-man group stayed away for much of the day. Javier Francisco
Aramendia (Caja Rural), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Javier Chacon
(Andalucia) never had more than about a five-minute lead, and were
caught again with 12km to go on the day.

The stage included the first mountain ranking and intermediate
sprints, with Javier Chacon of Andalucia taking the race’s first
mountain jersey. Mihkail Ignatiev won the two sprints, but the points
jersey went to stage winner Degenkolb.

John Degenkolb celebrates

Hot, hotter, hottest

One rider was missing at the start, Enrico Gasparotto of Astana. The
Italian had crashed in the opening team trial and finished outside of
the time limit. He would not have been able to start today anyway, as he
also ended up with a triple collarbone fracture.

The word of the day was “hot”, as temperatures quickly reached 39°C, and a strong wind often accompanied the peloton as well.

The day’s escape group formed at about 6km, consisting of Javier
Francisco Aramendia (Caja Rural), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha) and Javier
Chacon (Andalucia). Originally Niki Terpstra of Omega Pharma-QuickStep
was with the group, but as the Dutch rider was only 10 seconds down on
GC, Movistar, around race leader Castroviejo, didn’t want to let him go.
Within about five kilometers, he dropped back into the peloton.

That was the cue for the other three to really take off, and they
built up a lead of about five minutes. Movistar kept an eye on them but
let them go.

The stage had the first mountain ranking and the first intermediate
sprints of this year’s Vuelta. The climb was the category three Alto de
la Chapela at 77km, with a modest 3.5 percent average gradient.
Aramendia was the first over the top, but the jury spotted
irregularities and awarded the points instead to Chacon, who thus took
the first mountain jersey.

The stage had two intermediate sprints, both of which offered not
only points but also bonus seconds. The first one, at 59km, went to
Ignatiev ahead of Chacon and Aramendia.

The race ground on with the leaders holding on to their three minute
or so lead. With some 30km to go and the gap by then under a minute,
Chacon was the first to fade back.

Aramendia and Ignatiev fought on, and the Russian took the second
intermediate sprint as well, at 18.9km. The peloton had still not
really started a serious chase, but crossed the line 39 seconds later.
And with 12km to go, the two were finally caught.

Things stayed together a while, until Vacansoleil’s Sergey Lagutin
took off with a bit more than 5km to go. The Uzbeki national champion
wasn’t able to get away though.

It was a rising run-in to the finish, and Ben Swift jumped for the
lead, but he faded. Davis moved up for the victory, but Degenkolb pipped
him at the last second to take his first Grand Tour stage win.