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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Alejandro Valverde wins Stage 2, Michal Kwiatkowski moves into overall lead

Jack Elton-Walters
26 Aug 2018

Michal Kwiatkowski moves into the overall lead after his second consecutive second place at the Vuelta a Espana

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) crossed the line first on Stage 2 of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana with Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) in second. The runner-up spot on the stage was enough to move Kwiatkowski into the overall lead, and contesting the uphill kick to the line no other riders were a match for the punchy pairing.

After his win on the time trial the day before, Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) could not do enough to retain to overall lead on the frenetic finish to Stage 2, and he was dropped long before the finish.

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) were the biggest names to lose time on the day, putting both out of overall contention.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was also out of sorts as he struggled with the heat and was not at the front of the peloton on a stage that usually would have suited him.

Stage 2 was a predictable day for the most part

Covering 163.9km from Marbella to Caminito del Rey, the peloton allowed a breakaway to go up the road and then left them dangling there for much of the day.

First to head out for a fruitless day on the television coverage were Alexis Gougeard (AG2R-La Mondiale), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac), Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH), Jonathan Lastras (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Luis Angel Mate (Cofidis) and Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias).

Surprisingly given his reputation, De Gendt bid farewell to the break as it came within 50km of the finish line. A chat with his sports diretor on the way back didn't change his mind and he was swallowed by the peloton.

He could be saving himself for another day rather, perhaps Stage 3 where he could take the mountains jersey thanks to the number of points on offer.

As it stands, Mate leads that competition after he stayed with the break long enough and gained maximum points.

With the catch imminent, Rolland and Gougeard left their breakaway companions behind and the shipped four were soon caught by the peloton.

The pair held a gap of 51 seconds with 21.4km to run when Rolland started to put Gougeard into bother. Behind, Team Sky and Movistar pushed the pace of the peloton up a drag on what the Vuelta route planners had termed a 'flat' day.

Solo and being passed by race motos, Rolland kept his legs turning but as he crossed the 20km to go marker it was clear that he knew his chances of staying away had evaporated for the day and he was soon going backwards through the fast moving bunch.

Hanging around on the back of the peloton and seemingly struggling in the heat was Sagan, who would usually be a key favourite on a parcours like that of Stage 2.

A big casualty of the pace was Porte who was ill in the week before the race start. He was joined by teammate and red jersey Dennis and with them, in all likelihood, went BMC's chances of a high finish in the final Grand Tour of the team's current existence.

Nibali was the next big name out the back and out of stage and overall contention, but if he's treating the Vuelta as a training camp for the World Championships then this might all be part of the plan rather than something to be concerned about.

Movistar took over the front of the race from Team Sky after the latter had done much to whittle down the large front group. The lead swapped between these two teams as the number of riders following was further reduced.

LottoNL-Jumbo rolled to the front temporarily rather than pushing on away from the group. Not long after, Laurens de Plus (Quick-Step Floors) tried his luck but could only stay away for around 700 metres while those behind looked at one another.