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"The boys did a real good job and we came to the bottom of the climb with a big group still, and at the bottom with 4k to go I was fighting for position and someone ran into my back wheel."

Photo: Sirotti

FRANK SCHLECK

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TREK - SEGAFREDO

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VUELTA A ESPAÑA

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23.08.2015 @ 21:10 Posted by Andy Pedersen

There was no easing into the Vuelta a España for the first road stage - no flat parcours with a predictable bunch sprint ending – instead the peloton negotiated a four kilometer climb to the finish line and the overall contenders had to be on their toes as the first real time gaps formed in the grueling uphill that culminated stage two.

 

With everyone fresh and an open general classification from a neutralized first stage Saturday, the positioning battle raged into the final kilometers. Trek Factory Racing was well poised for the first crucial uphill, when misfortune raised its ugly head again:

 

“It was a very stressful stage,” explained Fränk Schleck. “The boys did a real good job and we came to the bottom of the climb with a big group still, and at the bottom with 4k to go I was fighting for position and someone ran into my back wheel. I had to stop and pull out my derailleur and was able to go again, but I lost a lot of places.”

 

“I can’t say that I had super, super legs today, but I think it was hard for everyone as it was already a big fight. There’s still a long ways to go, so we will see,” Schleck added, putting a positive spin on the early setback.

 

At just 158.7km, it was a short Vuelta stage, but the category three climb to Caminito del Rey (3.9kms at 6.5%) was long enough to make the first dents in the leaderboard, with the punchy climbers coming out on top.  Esteban Chaves (Orica GreenEdge) won the full-gas battle to the top, edging out Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) by one second to grab the red leader’s jersey.

 

Most of the GC favorites finished close together between 30 and 45 seconds later, with Haimar Zubeldia the first of Trek Factory Racing across the line in 29th place (+1’21”). Fränk Schleck arrived 2 minutes and 7 seconds after Chaves, not the start the team’s GC leader expected for the three-week Grand Tour.

 

“Honestly, as a team we were not bad,” said director Dirk Demol. “The boys did their work and we were there at the bottom of the last climb with maybe 60-70 riders left. Fränk was there and he had a mechanical and was off the bike and they did not say this on radio tour, not that this would change a lot, but we could have had Riccardo [Zoidl] wait for him. But we didn’t know.”

 

“I could see when we caught up to him with two kilometers to go that his speed was good, it was not of someone who had been dropped.  He lost more than two minutes on the stage winner and that’s a lot. Fränk was not bad, and the team was good – just rotten luck again.”

 

Missing in the lead up to the final hill was Fabian Cancellara. Cancellara had uncharacteristically fallen off the back of the peloton earlier, suffering from the stomach flu he had been battling for a few days, and he struggled just to finish the first road stage.

 

“Fabian [Cancellara] had a really, really tough day with stomach problems,” said Demol. “He had this last week for a couple days and yesterday again and now today, too. He was unable to eat this morning, and it was just survival for him today.  We have to see tomorrow; hopefully he recovers, because he really suffered today. I am sure that if he doesn’t get worse, then in a few days he will be better. But it’s been a long time without competition for him and he had a fever a few days before coming here so he has not come with good condition. We will have to look at this day by day.”

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