Chaves avoids pile up to assume Vuelta a Espana lead

Esteban Chaves celebrates his win in stage two of the Vuelta a Espana. Picture: AP

Esteban Chaves celebrates his win in stage two of the Vuelta a Espana. Picture: AP

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ESTEBAN Chaves of Colombia won the second stage of the Vuelta a Espana yesterday after avoiding a crash that held up nearly two thirds of the riders.

Chaves beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin in the sprint at the final summit to take the overall leader’s red jersey. It was the first stage that counted toward individual times.

Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Britain finished 30 seconds behind in seventh place, crossing the line just after Colombian Nairo Quintana, who couldn’t complete a late charge for the victory. Spaniard Joachim “Purito” Rodriguez was fifth and countryman Alejandro Valverde eighth.

Among those involved in the crash that happened about 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the finish was general clasification contender Vincenzo Nibali of Italy, who ended nearly a minute and a half behind the leaders.

Several riders needed medical assistance, although no serious injuries were reported.

Nibali had to wait about a minute to get back on the road and only got close to the peloton again with about 10 kilometres (six miles) to go. The Italian, fourth at the Tour de France, won the Vuelta in 2010 before also claiming the Giro d’Italia in 2013 and the Tour in 2014.

Froome, the Vuelta runner-up in 2014, controlled his pace alongside Valverde to make sure he finished within range. Froome finished last year’s Vuelta behind Alberto Contador, who is not defending his title after winning the Giro d’Italia and tiring at the tail end of the Tour de France this summer.

Quintana was in the four-man break at the end but couldn’t keep up in the final climb. Dumoulin stayed close to Chaves until the final metres but eventually fell back.

The second stage took riders over 158.7 kilometres (98.6 miles) from Alhaurin de la Torre to a summit finish at Caminito del Rey. The three-week Vuelta started with a team time trial on Saturday, but it didn’t count toward individual times because of safety concerns over a route of narrow stretches on sandy dirt.

The 7.4-kilometre (4.6-mile) stage from Puerto Banus to Marbella along Spain’s southern coast was won by the BMC team, with American rider Tejay Van Garderen in first place.

Froome avoided taking any risks as he knew the result would not affect his standing in the general classification and Team Sky finished over a minute down on BMC Racing, who pipped Orica-GreenEdge and Tinkoff-Saxo by less than a second.

LottoNL-Jumbo set the early pace with what looked to be a strong time of eight minutes and 18 seconds but time-trial specialists Orica-GreenEdge soon smashed that mark by eight seconds.

Tinkoff-Saxo then edged Orica off the top spot by less than a second but their time in the leader’s enclosure was short as world champions BMC took over by a tenth of a second.

Slovakian Peter Velits crossed the line first for BMC and wore the leader’s red jersey yesterday.

Team Sky’s caution was mirrored by Cannondale-Garmin (9:30) and Europcar (10:25) who were even slower on a course which had been questioned by Froome and team-mate Geraint Thomas among other riders.

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