CALPE, Spain (Reuters) – Nairo Quintana produced a deadly late attack to claim victory on stage two of the Vuelta a Espana on Sunday as the Movistar rider laid down an early marker for his fellow general classification contenders.
Quintana, one of the pre-race favourites in an underwhelming line-up, moved into second place overall, two seconds behind new race leader, Ireland’s Nicolas Roche, of Sunweb, who finished runner-up on the day, five seconds behind the Colombian.
Stage two, a hilly 199km course from Benidorm to Calpe on Spain’s south west coast, had been touted as one for the sprinters given its relatively flat finish following a day in the mountains.
Yet that proved not to be the case as Quintana, one of the sport’s great climbers, pulled away towards the end to complete a solo victory.
Everything had looked set fair for a sprint finish after the four-rider breakaway was caught by the peloton with 31 kilometres left.
Yet on the day’s final climb — the Alto de Puig Lorenca — with just over 25 kilometres remaining, a group featuring the overall race favourites pulled clear at the front.
Quintana, along with Roche, Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-Scott), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Vizma) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates) descended towards the finish from the final climb at a frantic pace.
Then the Colombian made his move with three kilometres from home and his pace proved too hot to handle for the rest.
The 2016 Vuelta winner crossed the line alone to cap a remarkable performance off the back of his strong finish to the Tour de France last month.
Monday sees a flat 188km stage from Ibi to Alicante, which finishes with a 33 kilometre descent.
(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Ian Chadband)