Vuelta a Espana 2019, stage two – full results and standings: Irishman Nicolas Roche takes leader's red jersey

Telegraph Sport
Nicolas Roche celebrates a hard-earned victory - Velo
Nicolas Roche celebrates a hard-earned victory - Velo

Nicolas Roche took the leader's red jersey as Nairo Quintana won stage two of the Vuelta a España in Calpe.

Quintana attacked from an elite six-man group in the final three kilometres of the 200km stage from Benidorm, but Sunweb's Irishman Roche crossed the line second, just five seconds further back, to inherit the red jersey from Astana's Miguel Ángel López.

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It is a second spell in red for Roche, who also held the Vuelta lead for one day after stage eight of the 2013 edition.

"It's an amazing feeling," the 35-year-old said on Eurosport. "It's been six years now since I had the red jersey so it's an amazing day. Just to be back in the leader's jersey of a grand tour, I'm speechless.

"I was expecting there would be a 25 or 30-man group and a sprint and it would be guys like (Philippe) Gilbert for the jersey. Until the final 20 kilometres I didn't think about it."

The race blew apart on the steep slopes of the category two Alto de Puig Llorença with a little over 20 kilometres to go.

Roche and Sunweb made their move as the race briefly threatened to come back together, soon joined by Movistar's Quintana, as well as Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First), Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates).

Quintana attacked again as the finish line approached, and the 2016 Vuelta winner has laid down an important marker as he sits just two seconds behind Roche overall.

The Vuelta continues on Monday with the 188km third stage from Ibi. Ciudad del Juguete to Alicante and concludes in Madrid on Sept 15.

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