Meersman claims stage 2 in Vuelta a Espana as Kwiatkowski takes the red jersey

Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick-Step) won the first road stage of the 2016 Vuelta a España, out-sprinting Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18) and Orica-BikeExchange’s Magnus Cort.

After a very calm and slow stage, the early break was brought back by an increasingly nervous peloton with 17km to go. There was a big fight for position as they sped towards an uncategorized climb in the final kilometres of the stage.

Tiago Machado (Katusha) launched a strong attack and as no one reaction he soon got an advantage of 15 seconds. Kenny Elissonde (FDJ) took off in pursuit and then Mathias Frank, David de la Cruz and Jan Bakelants joined the Frenchman. Finally, Dylan Teuns (BMC) also made it across to make it a very strong chase group.

Giant-Alpecin and Trek reacted quickly and they gave chase, keeping the gap at a minimum as they entered the final 10km. The chasers were brought back before they crested the summit and Mchado was justa few metres ahead as they went down the descent.

Macahado was brought back with 8.5km to go where Tinkoff had taken control with Daniele Bennati. Christian Knees took over for Sky, with Michael Kwiatkowski and Peter Kennaugh on his wheel.

With 5km to go, BMC, Cofidis, Bora-Argon 18 and Lotto Soudal lined out their trains before Sky again took control with Michal Golas. Lotto Soudal was the first sprint team to take charge when Adam Hansen and Jelle Wallays hit the front with their sprinter Tosh van der Sande in third position.

Farrar did the lead-out for Sbaragli but it was too early and instead Rudiger Selig (Bora-Argon 18) hit the front. That’s when the Etixx-QuickStep train kicked into action with Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert and Meersman. The former two gave the latter a perfect lead-out and no one could come around the Belgian who took his first grand tour win.

Michael Schwarzmann narrowly edged Magnus Cort in the battle for second and that turned out to be costly for the Dane. Second place had been enough to take the race lead but now the red jersey went Michal Kwiatkowski who sprinted to fourth. However, he is still equal on time with nine other riders, with the Movistar pair of Jose Joaquin Rojas and Alejandro Valverde sitting second and third respectively.

Kwiatkowski will have a hard time defending his jersey in stage 3 which is expected to be the first day for the GC riders. After a flat start, the riders face a category 3 and a category 2 climb as a warm-up for the brutal final challenge, the Mirador del Ezaro. It may only be 1.8km long but with an average gradient og 13.8%, the wall will be the scene of the first battle between the climbers.

Vuelta a Espana 2016 – stage 2 results (Ourense – Baiona):

1 Gianni Meersman (Etixx – Quick Step)


2 Michael Schwarzmann (Bora-Argon 18)  ,,
3 Magnus Cort Nielsen (ORICA-BikeExchange)  ,,
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)  ,,
5 Jonas van Genechten (IAM)  ,,
6 Kristian Sbaragli (Dimension Data)  ,,
7 Niccolo Bonifazio (Trek – Segafredo)  ,,
8 Jhonatan Restrepo (Katusha)  ,,
9 Jean-Pierre Drucker (BMC)  ,,
10 Lorrenzo Manzin (FDJ)  ,,


General classification after stage 2:

1 Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky)


2 José Joaquín Rojas (Movistar)


3 Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)


4 Christopher Froome (Sky)


5 Salvatore Puccio (Sky)


6 Peter Kennaugh (Sky)


7 Nairo Quintana (Movistar)


8 Leopold König (Sky)


9 Rubén Fernández (Movistar)


10 Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar)