After the disappointment of the high speed crash on Saturday, UAE Team Emirates came back to animate the closing kilometres of the Stage 2 arrival from Benidorm to Calpe on Sunday.
A group of four riders moved away in the early stages but would be reeled in as the peloton neared the final ascent. When the riders crested the final climb of the category 2 Alto de Pulg Llorenca (8.8 per cent) it was world champion Alejandro Valverde who forced the pace, reducing the bunch to a select group of 20 riders.
As they took the final descent former Vuelta a Espana winner Fabio Aru slipped away in a group of six riders which would build an advantage of over 30 seconds on the chasers. With the line drawing closer, Movistar’s Nairo Quintana slipped away to claim a solo win with Aru sprinting home to fifth in the group of chasers five seconds behind.
Tadej Pogacar, the youngest rider in the race, came home at the head of the second group on the road to claim eighth, 37 seconds behind Quintana.
Aru said: “This morning I woke up with pain due to the fall yesterday, especially at the beginning of the race my knee was bothering me, then as the kilometers went by the situation improved.
“Also in the coming days the aftermath of the fall will be felt, but I will face them with an excellent morale that comes from today’s good performance. In the end I had some cramps as the day was very hot. Quintana made the perfect move to take the win.”
Monday’s Stage 3 should be a day for the sprinters with just two category three climbs and it will take the riders from Ciudad del Juguete to Alicante (188km).
Stage 2 results
1 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
2 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb
3 Primoz Roglic (Slo) Team Jumbo-Visma
5 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
8 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates
1 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Sunweb 5:26:12
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:02
3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First 0:00:08
14 Fabio Aru (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:08
23 Tadej Pogacar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates 0:01:40
UAE Team Emirates have a double bill of racing in Germany next week, starting with one-day WorldTour race, the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg (August 25), which is swiftly followed by a four-day race around the country, the Deutchland Tour (August 29-September 1).
Hamburg is one for the sprinters and the seven-man squad will ride in support of Alexander Kristoff, who has not only won the race, but been on the podium a further three times. They will be guided by sports directors Allan Peiper and Neil Stephens.
Joining Kristoff will be his fellow Norwegians Sven Erik Bystrom and Vegard Stake Laengen, as well as Italy’s Roberto Ferrari, Portugal youngster Rui Oliveira, rising Belgian star Jasper Philipsen and Australian veteran Rory Sutherland.
Pieper said: “We will be at the start of the race focusing on Alexander Kristoff. The team has been put together to give him adequate support and to be at the heart of the action during the race and in the final.”
The Deutschland Tour will see the Emirati outfit opt for a mix of climbers and fast men, under the guidance of Simone Pedrazzini and Bruno Vicino. Kristoff is again included, as is Stake Laengen. They will be joined by Italian duo Diego Ulissi and Simone Consonni as well as Ireland’s Dan Martin and Belarus’ Aleksandr Riabushenko.
“With Kristoff we will try to be up in the mix in the sprints on stages three and four,” explained Pedrazzini. “Martin and Ulissi will aim for the general classification, with Consonni, Laengen and Riabushenko working in support.“
With less than a week to go until the Vuelta a Espana starts in Torrevieja, UAE Team Emirates has named its eight man squad for the last Grand Tour of the season.
Fabio Aru and Fernando Gaviria spearhead the Emirati formation, who will have support from a well-rounded team, including rising star Tadej Pogacar who will earn his first ever Grand Tour cap.
The squad is topped off with the Italian trio of Valerio Conti, Oliviero Troia and Marco Marcato, as well as the Colombian duo of Sergio Henao and Juan Sebastian Molano.
The 21 stages of this year’s Vuelta will kick off with a 13.4km Team Time Trial in Torrevieja on Saturday and run until the final sprint stage in Madrid on September 15.
Along the way there are six flat stages, a 36.2km Individual Time Trial, three lumpy stages, and nine mountain stages – eight of which feature summit finishes.
Aru, who won the Vuelta in 2015, is relishing the prospect of returning to Spain after bad luck, injury and surgery has curtailed his last twelve months.
The Italian said: “As always, the Vuelta a Espana represents an important and stimulating challenge, both in terms of the route and the quality of the start list.
“I’m excited and ready to race, especially since the operation I had four months ago. The goal is to compete at high level but also to be consistent.”
Gaviria said: “I am happy to make my debut in an important race like the Vuelta, the only Grand Tour I have never participated in. There aren’t many stages for the sprinters, and we’ll have to take our chances when we can – this is what makes the Vuelta even more challenging and stimulating.”