Are we sure this is a Grand Tour? Can someone check? Where is the caginess and the calculation? Why is no-one, after two stages, even pretending to try and save energy? It’s fantastic, and I can’t wait to see what happens when they all get tired legs in a few days!
Yesterday, Stage 1, we had a bonkers cat-and-mouse devil-may-care GC-battle to the finish line. Today, our set piece climb to the Alto de San Miguel de Aralar and descent off the other side into Lekunberri promised similar, but had a twist.
The start town of Pamplona, see, is the home of Spain’s team, Movistar. Home roads. High expectations. Pressure, in a poor season to date, to perform. And to their credit they didn’t shirk.Embed from Getty Images
They controlled, and bossed, and used their numbers. On the climb of the San Miguel they cranked up the pace and made it hard. Heading to the summit, on the battle-scarred concrete road that the Spanish do so well, the peloton, having been given a right good seeing to, were down to about a dozen.
GC men almost to a man.
Cresting the summit, and with several kilometres of sinuous descent, they send naughty schoolboy Marc Soler off the front and on the attack.
If you watched the Netflix series “The Least Expected Day” recently, which charted the travails of the team through 2019, you’ll know Soler as the fresh-faced young buck with the “what…me?” face and the air of insubordinate mischief.
The team had talked of him being a leader in 2020. Now was his moment.
Looking for all the world like he’d memorised every kink and bend for this very moment, he was immediately twenty seconds clear, and then he was gone. He could no be caught.Embed from Getty Images
Winning his first Vuelta Stage he revelled in the approval of old man Valverde at the finish. Soler, if he didn’t quite start the race a boy and finish it a man, certainly climbed a rung on the ladder.
Behind him…yep, a cat-and-mouse devil-may-care GC-battle for bonus seconds, kudos, and general shits-and-giggles. Roglic won the sprint, with Dan Martin, Hugh Carthy, Richard Carapaz, Esteban Chaves, Sepp Kuss, et al, close behind.
Are there even any domestiques in the race? If there are, send ‘em home. We’ll just watch these guys race for two-and-a-half weeks