Rigoberto Urán finished in fourth place on the second stage of the Vuelta a España to move up to third overall. Slightly further back, Sergio Higuita, in his Grand Tour debut, crossed the finish line in Calpe in seventh place. The young Colombian gained 13 spots on the general classification to slot into eighth overall.
Urán and Higuita’s compatriot Nairo Quintana (Movistar) won the stage. Nicholas Roche (Sunweb) moved into the red leader’s jersey.
“There were riders racing for the stage and riders racing for the general classification,” said Higuita. “It was full gas. It was a really great stage, and I’m very happy with the whole team, the teamwork.”
The first road stage of the 74th edition of the Vuelta got off to a fairly sedate start. Initially two riders made up the early escape. Two others eventually bridged across, creating a leading group of four. Bora-hansgrohe assumed control of the early gap-minding, working for their sprinter Sam Bennett.
Pre-stage chatter pointed to a sprint into Calpe or perhaps a reduced bunch kick won by a rouleur, a versatile rider with the ability to excel over varied terrain. Instead the category two Alto de Puig Llorença, 20 kilometers form the finish, gave the general contenders the opportunity to come out to play – and play they did.
Off the back of work down by EF Education First Pro Cycling, Urán and Higuita were well-placed when the elite selection took shape. The pair were part of the 23-rider group that went over the top of the final categorized climb together. When the selection split further, Urán remained at the head affairs.
Fifteen kilometers from the finish line in Calpe, Urán, Roche, Quintana (Movistar), Mikel Nieve (Mitchelton-SCOTT), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Vismo) and Fabio Aru (UAE) had 16-seconds on a chase group that included Higuita.
Quintana attacked with three kilometers to go to solo to stage victory. Five seconds later, Roche led chase one, with Urán, home at five seconds. Higuita followed another 32-seconds later.
Roche pulled on red in Calpe with a two-second advantage over Quintana and an eight-second gap on Urán.
Racing continues tomorrow with a 193-kilometer stage into Alicante that will likely end in a sprint.
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