Vuelta a Espana: Nicolas Roche wins stage two as Vincenzo Nibali takes overall lead
Nicolas Roche won stage two of the Vuelta a Espana and Vincenzo Nibali took the race lead.
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 25/08/13 6:53pm
Roche was one of four riders who escaped from the front group 1.5km out from the line on the summit finish on Alto do Monte da Groba in Baiona.
The Saxo-Tinkoff rider then timed a burst to the line to perfection to beat second-placed Daniel Moreno (Katusha) by two seconds and third-placed Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) by six seconds.
Nibali (Astana) claimed the overall race lead after finishing 16th on the stage, 14 seconds behind Roche but 37 seconds ahead of team-mate and former red jersey-wearer Janez Brajkovic, who was dropped late on the climb.
Having picked up ten bonus seconds at the finish line, Roche moves up to second in the general classification, eight seconds back, with Spain's Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Leopard) ten seconds adrift in third.
The category-one final climb delivered the type of thrilling finish normally seen far later in Grand Tours than stage two and sets the standard for what is likely to be a compelling race.
Nibali is the favourite to claim overall victory in Madrid in three weeks' time but must now shoulder the pressure of leading the race far earlier than he would have planned.
Roche, meanwhile, is likely to assume solo leadership of Saxo-Tinkoff after a superb display that hinted he is in prime form and could pose a serious challenge overall.
Other big names were not so impressive, though, with Sergio Henao (Team Sky) and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) both suffering heavy losses after being dropped on the climb.
The stage took the riders on a 177.7km route from Pontevedra to Baiona containing two categorised climbs, including the race's first of 11 summit finishes.
Movistar cause havoc
A three-man breakaway built up a huge gap of almost 13 minutes and although at one time it looked like they would stay away, a headwind in the final 50km put paid to their hopes.
That placed the initiative into the hands of the GC riders heading on to the 11km-long Alto do Monte da Groba and it was Movistar who took up the pace-setting.
The Spanish squad, driven on by Jose Herrada and Sylwester Szmyd, blew apart the peloton, swiftly dispatching of Sanchez and, later, Henao and Brajkovic.
Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) finally broke their monopoly with a strong attack and he was soon followed by Roche, Moreno and Pozzovivo to form a lead quartet.
Pozzovivo was the first to launch a bid for victory, but Roche bided his time and won by comfortable margin.
Stage two result
1 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff, 4:37:09
2 Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha, +2secs
3 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +6 v 4 Leopold Konig (Cze) NetApp-Endura, +11
5 Alejandro Valverde (Ita) Movistar, +12
6 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida, same time
7 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, st
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale, +14
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin, st
10 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, st
16 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, +14
60 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +2:41
142 Carlos Betancur (Col) Ag2r-La Mondiale, +9:53
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, 5:07:22
2 Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff, +8sec
3 Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard, +10
4 Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard, same time
5 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) RadioShack-Leopard, st
6 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Team Sky, +22
7 Ben Hermans (Bel) RadioShack-Leopard, +27
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, st
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Saxo-Tinkoff, +32
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff, st
24 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +57
49 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky, +2:49
- Green (points classification): Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff
- Blue polka dot (mountains classification): Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff