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Quick-Step Cycling executed a perfect tactical plan to grab Stage 2 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana on Sunday, with Yves Lampaert crossing the line first for his maiden win in a Grand Tour.

The Belgian avoided a bunch sprint by taking advantage of heavy winds and a late roundabout that disrupted the peloton’s momentum. Lampaert also took the leader’s jersey.

Here’s a look at the stage results, via cycling writer Jose Been:


Recap

While the profile for Sunday’s stage was long and flat, suggesting a bunch sprint, the route took the peloton past some well-known windsurfing hotspots, and teams were prepared for heavy crosswinds, per sports writer Ned Boulting:


The peloton had done its homework, and from the start, the pace was remarkably high. Instead of the usual early attacks, the riders stuck together. With nowhere to hide on the coastal roads, the winds plagued the peloton throughout the day and led to a massive crash less than 70 kilometres into the stage.

Sky’s Chris Froome suffered a puncture and momentarily dropped out of the front, but he soon returned, just as the crosswinds kicked in. In the background, another crash claimed the first victim of the 2017 Vuelta, per Quick-Step Cycling:


The wind switched from head to tail with about 30 kilometres to go, giving the peloton another boost in search of a bunch sprint. Echelons were a problem, but the wider roads allowed everyone to return with 10 kilometres still to go.

A bunch sprint seemed inevitable, but Quick-Step anticipated a tricky roundabout perfectly, with three riders creating a gap at a key time. While the rest of the team set up the sprint in case Lampaert was caught, the Belgian beat the peloton to the finish line.

Team-mate Philippe Gilbert was ecstatic:


The peloton will already face their first mountain stage on Monday, setting the tone for what is expected to be an intense Vuelta, with few flat stages or opportunities for the sprinters.



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