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Having survived the late category 3 climb, Bouhanni benefited from a great lead-out from Laporte to easily beat Felline and Swift in the reduced sprint on stage 2 of the Vuelta a Andaluica; the Frenchman is the new overall leader

Photo: Sirotti






18.02.2016 @ 17:28 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After several near-misses, Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) finally opened his 2016 account when he came out on top in a hugely confusing reduced bunch sprint on the second stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia. Having been given the perfect lead-out by teammate Christophe Laporte, he easily held off Fabio Felline (Trek) and Ben Swift (Sky) to take both the stage win and the leader’s jersey on a countback as there are no bonus seconds in the Spanish race.


After having joined Cofidis for the 2015 season, Nacer Bouhanni was expected to hit the ground running but the first part of his first year in his new team was a testing one. The first months were littered with near-missed and he had to wait until April before he finally opened his account. He managed to pick up 11 wins during the year but as he crashed in all his targeted races, his start in his new team as a disappointing one.


It was hard not to get a feeling of déjà vu in 2016 as Bouhanni has again had lots of near-misses in the first part of the year. He was beaten by André Greipel in Mallorca and had to settle for second behind Dylan Groenewegen in a photo finish at the Volta a la Valenciana.


Yesterday he again missed out when his lead-out failed on the opening stage of the Vuelta a Andalucia and with the rest of the stages all containing a significant amount of climbing, it looked like he could again be forced to leave a major race empty-handed. However, he turned his fortunes around in today’s second stage when he survived a late climb and then benefited from a great lead-out from Christophe Laporte to take his first win.


The stage was almost completely flat but had a nasty sting in its tail as the riders faced a 6.6km category 3 climb which averaged 5.8% and summited just 22.9km from the finish in Cordoba. After hard work by race leader Daniele Bennati’s Tinkoff team, it was all back together by the time the riders hit the ascent.


Nicolas Roche took up the pace-setting duties for team Sky as they turned onto climb and he started a gradual selection process as riders constantly. However, there was no aggression and all teams seemed to be content with the pace.


The ceasefire was finally broken with 26km to go when Kanstantsin Siutsou (Dimension Data) took off. A Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider tried to join the move but he never made the junction..


While Roche continued to set the pace and send riders out the back door, Siutsou managed to open a gap of 20 seconds and he did a great job to maintain it all the way to the top. Meanwhile, Lotto Soudal sprinter Tosh van der Sande was involved in a small crash but he managed to rejoin the peloton before they got to the top.


Siutsou reached the top with a 21-second advantage over the peloton before Imanol Estevez (Euskadi) and Wout Poels (Sky) sprinted for the KOM points, with the former extending his KOM lead by taking second. It was still a relatively big group of far more than 50 riders that started the lumpy section after the summit.


Siutsou did well to maintain his advantage for a little while but as BMC started to force the pace, he started to lose ground. At the same time, numerous riders were getting dropped on the twisting roads.


As Siutsou started the descent, Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal) attacked from the peloton and he managed to pass the Belarusian at a time when Movistar had nearly brought the pair back. While Siutsou fell back to the group, Wellens again managed to increase his advantage and he was joined by Daniel Moreno (Movistar) just as they hit the flat final 10km.


However, BMC had gone crazy on the descent and Samuel Sanchez had split the field to pieces and the Spaniard quickly brought the two leaders back. Only 17 riders were left in front, including fast riders Juan Jose Lobato (Movistar), Fabio Felline (Trek), Ben Swift (Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC) and GC riders Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Wout Poels (Sky) and Wilco Kelderman (LottoNL-Jumbo).


Sanchez, Moreno and Brent Bookwalter (BMC) worked hard on the front to keep the second group with race leader Bennati and Bouhanni at bay and they entered the final 5m with a 15-second advantage. However, the second group managed to get back with 3km to and it was around 40 riders that headed for the sprint.


Reto Hollenstein (IAM) attacked but was closely marked by Gianni Moscon (Sky) who refused to work and so they were brought back. The latter started to set the pace until his teammate Kiryienka took over and led the peloton to the flamme rouge.


An IAM rider hit the front before Movistar took over but it was Omar Fraile (Dimension Data) who tried to launch a surprise attack. He was closed down by Valverde who tried to lead out Lobato but the Spaniards had lost contact in the hectic finale.


Instead, Christophe Laporte with Bouhanni on his wheel and the latter barely had to sprint to take the win. Felline was on his wheel but had to settle for second, with Swift rolling across the line in third and Laporte making it two Cofidis riders in the top 4.


As Bennati finished outside the top 20 and there are no bonus seconds in the race, Bouhanni takes the overall lead on a countback. Lobato is second and Kreder third but a big group of riders are still in the same time as Bouhanni.


Bouhanni will wear the leader’s jersey in tomorrow’s third stage which is a hilly affair with a total of four categorized climbs. The final summit is located just 15.1km from the finish from where it is rolling terrain all the way to the line where another reduced bunch sprint can be expected.


A tricky finale

After the flat opening stage, the finale was a lot harder on stage 2 which brought the riders over 186.3km from Palomares del Rio to Cordoba. The first part of the stage was completely flat but there was a nasty sting in the tail as the riders had to tackle the Alto de la Trassierra (6.6km, 5.8%) which summited just 22.9km from the finish. After a short lumpy section, it was a downhill run to a flat finish.


It was a cloudy morning when the riders gathered for the start on Palomares del Rio. Two riders were absent as Koen De Kort (Giant-Alpecin) is suffering from knee pain while CCC captain Victor de la Parte has fallen ill.


The peloton splits in the wind

The weather forecast had predicted very little wind but the conditions were much more dangerous than expected. Hence, the stage got off to a nervous and fast start with lots of attacks and aggression.


After 25km of fast racing, the peloton split into two groups, with a first bunch made up of just 25 riders, including Rajal Majka (Tinkoff). In the big fight for position, there was a small crash that involved Majka’s teammate Nikolay Trusov and Movistar’s Ruben Fernandez.


Four riders get clear

Markel Irizar (Trek) and Kevin Van Melsen (Wanty) attacked and got a small advantage while Trusov and Fernandez got back on their bikes and rejoined the second group. At the 33km mark, the two groups merged and the front duo was brought back.


Reinier Honig (Roompot), Pablo Torres (Burgos) and Aitor Gonzalez (Euskadi) were the next to attack and as the peloton slowed down, they quickly got a 25-second advantage. Ruben Pols (Topsport Vlaanderen) also made the junction to make it a front quartet and while the peloton recovered from their fast start, they extended their advantage to 2.30 at the 40km mark.


Trusov sets the pace

The escapees had covered 44.6km during the fast first hour and had pushed their gap out to 3.30 at the 59km mark. However, Tinkoff and Movistar refused to give them much leeway and as they hit the front, they had reduced the gap to 2.59 after 59km of racing.


The two teams kept the gap stable between 2.30 and 3.30 for most of the day while Torres beat Pols and Gonzalez in the intermediate sprint after 79km of racing. Movistar soon stopped their work and for almost the entire stage, it was the lone figure of Trusov setting the pace for Tinkoff.


Trusov ups the pace

At the 90km mark, the gap was still 3.05 and it was almost unchanged after 126km of racing when it was 2.52. With 46km to go, it had been reduced to 2.48 and it was now time for Trusov to up the pace.


The Russian emptied himself and had reduced the gap to 1.30 just nine kilometres later, and it was down to 1.05 with 34km to go. This is where the fight for position really intensified and as Trusov ended his work, Sky hit the front with Roche . Gazprom-Rusvelo and LottoNL-Jumbo moved up next to the British team as Kiryienka took over with 32km to go.


One kilometre later, the gap was down to only 15 seconds and as they entered the final 30km, it was all back together. Sky won the battle for the front positions and it was Roche who set the pace as they hit the climb, kicking off the finale that saw Bouhanni come away with the win.



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