Nairo Quintana, whole Movistar Team stays unscathed during flat stage two in San Luis; Fernando Gaviria (EQS) sprints to GC lead, Blues now 18" behind before Potrero climb on Wednesday
Just like in 2015, Colombian Fernando Gaviria (EQS) took a convincing victory in the first mass sprint of the Tour de San Luis. The longest ride in the Argentinian stagerace -181.9km between the region's capital and Villa Mercedes- was completed under intense heat, some gusty winds and occassional crashes into the first part of the course, which the group directed by José Luis Jaimerena, always near the front of the peloton, stayed away from. A six-man escape, whose final survivor was Japan's Genki Yamamoto (NIP), was close to break dominance from the bunch, getting caught with just 800m left.
"It seemed like the right thing to do today: taking care of our leader," explained Fran Ventoso (audios after stage two). "It was a hard day for a number of reasons: the heat, the pace, the nerves into the bunch, the crosswinds – they all kept us into alert, we really needed to keep Nairo under protection. We shared the duties today: Adriano (Malori) and I were mainly in charge of covering Nairo so he didn't get against the wind, while Marc (Soler) went back and forth bringing water all stage." The Catalan was happy that "we could catch the break and stay fully on track for the GC fight. We suffered with the crosswinds, but it was all the same for everyone – the important thing is that we crossed the finish without any troubles."
With all six Movistar Team riders into the bunch and the winner's 10-second bonus taken into account, the Blues -four climbers (Moreno, Soler and the Quintana brothers) plus Adriano Malori- remain into the GC's top-ten, 18" adrift. A nice chance for them to reach the lead will come on Wednesday at the first mountain stage: the Mirador del Potrero awaits just 11km from La Punta's finish.
"Hot weather made it hard, but also the fact that they (Etixx) stopped pulling – getting back to the break was a hard task," explained the younger of the Quintana brothers. "The team staff really helped us by freezing water so we could put some ice down our back and feel refreshed – the whole team did a great job." As explains Malori, "when you've got to spend the opening 130km under such heat (temperatures exceeding 40ºC), you always end up struggling." Yet discipline remains the same: "When our leaders stops," warns Ventoso, "even for a pee, we all must remain with him, never leave him alone – the pace can pick up at any time."
Tour Down Under: Crash overshadows tight finale
It wasn't to be this time for Juanjo Lobato, after his magnificent display twelve months ago at Stirling's finish, as the Movistar Team had to stay content with a seventh place for the Trebujena-born rider on stage two of the Tour Down Under. The 132km, practically a circuit race after a short transfer from the start in Unley, had a bunch always controlling breaks tightly and only letting Adam Hansen (LTS) go until the final 20km.
At the always-complicated final kick, a crash into the last kilometer ruined most chances for a peloton in which Lobato was already looking for his sprinting distance. Local Jay McCarthy (TNK) narrowly took the honours from Diego Ulissi (LAM), while Lobato, second top-ten finisher for the Blues so far this week, sits now in 6th overall. Thursday will bring the first mountains of the race, with the Corkscrew Road (2.5km at 9% avg.) located just next to Campbelltown's finish and set to cause a major shake-up in the standings.