Tour (st. 2) / Austria (st. 1)
Nibali (AST) takes yellow after surprising the other favourites in a demanding stage two through the hill of Yorkshire. Alejandro now 11th overall, just 2secs back
With more than 3,000 meters of vertical drop and nine categorized climbs in the 201km trek from York to Sheffield, stage two of the 2014 Tour de France was destined to provoke a first shake-up between the GC favourites, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) showed to be up for the fight. The Spanish rider from the telephone squad finished into the elite group after good teamwork in the roads leading up to the final climbs -especially from Visconti, Rojas and Intxausti- and the support by youngster Jesús Herrada in the final run towards the Jenkin Road, the last côte of the day.
No attacks within the main contenders in that last climb made any moves into the flat leading to the finish crucial. Van Avermaet (BMC) and Fuglsang (AST) tried first, without permission from the group, before Vincenzo Nibali (AST) jumped away with no real response, reaching the finish with 2secs over Valverde’s group (17th across the line, 11th now in the GC) and putting on the yellow jersey. No real battle should be expected between the top guys in the following two days before cobblestones are tackled on Wednesday, not if sprinters’ teams are to avoid it tomorrow on their route to The Mall, the very known London avenue next to Buckingham Palace 155km on the day’s programme-.
Alejandro Valverde: “The stage was truly demanding – lots of climbs and descents, all day long, with narrow roads and tremendous speed. All riders have still full strength on their tanks, and that plays an impact on the race’s development. I felt well in the finale, but there was much disarray into the group, and Nibali profited really well from it. I saw I wasn’t in a position to contest the stage win, and when I jumped away into the final straight, it was just to close the gap to Froome, who had gone away with Rui (Costa) and was opening a gap. Experience from the last few years shows it could be difficult to keep his level in other terrains, so we can’t let him gain any seconds. This has just started, but my legs are feeling good and I’m happy with that.”
Moreno (3rd), Capecchi (7th) start off well in Austria
In turn, the Movistar Team’s block heading into the 66th edition of the Österreich-Rundfahrt came to a good start on Sunday thanks to its two main references for the mountains, Javier Moreno and Eros Capecchi. The Spaniard and the Italian were respectively 3rd and 7th into the hellish slope of Sonntagberg (22%), end of a 182km stage one from Tulln with two other minor ascents. A strong attack from British road race champion Peter Kennaugh (SKY) crowned the work by his team-mates in the run-in to the finish, chasing the early, five-man breakaway attempt that led most of the stage.
Gaps were bigger than expected, with Kennaugh reaching the finish with 11″ over Oliver Zaugg (TCS) and 18″ over the Andalusian from the telephone squad, who will have, along with Eros, another good chance of Tuesday over the traditional Kitzbüheler Horn (HC), the first real mountain-top finish. Before that, a predictable sprint finish should follow tomorrow in Bad Ischl, after 181km departing from Waidhofen.