Team Sky recovered from a poor performance in the opening team time trial as their Australian sprinter Chris Sutton won the Vuelta a Espana’s second stage on Sunday.
After a difficult uphill section in the final kilometer shredded the peloton, the 26-year-old blasted out of the field with 350m to go for his first ever Grand Tour win.
Spain’s Vicente Reynes shadowed Sutton’s late burst, but he faded to take second, while first-year German sprinter Marcel Kittel, the winner of 12 races this season, continued to punch above his weight to come third on his first Grand Tour.
Italian sprinter Daniele Bennati moved into the overall lead after his sixth-place finish enabled the Leopard Trek rider to move ahead of Danish teammate Jakob Fuglsang.
Less than 24 hours after Team Sky finished third last in the opening team time trial, the British outfit showed they had not lost their morale.
“I wouldn’t say Saturday was disappointing, to finish so far back was a little bit of a setback and today we showed we’d kept the team spirit high,” Sutton told reporters. “I knew it was a hard uphill finish, every sprinter would probably try to accelerate too early. So I was waiting and waiting, and then when someone from [Omega-Pharma] Lotto attacked, I got on his wheel. I looked behind and from 200m to go I knew I had it.”
Bennati dedicated his leader’s jersey to the memory of Belgium’s Wouter Weylandt, who died in a high-speed downhill crash on the Giro d’Italia in May.
“I spent a lot of time with Wouter in the Tours of Qatar and Oman this year, and in Italy he was going to be my leadout man in the sprints,” Bennati told reporters. “I’m pleased I can dedicate this win to him.”
Bennati confirmed that his strong racing on a difficult uphill sprint should strengthen his status as team leader for Italy in next month’s world championships.
Sutton’s victory came close to the town of Orihuela, where in last year’s race Sky’s team assistant Txema Gonzalez died of a bacterial infection. Sky then pulled out of the race the following morning.
La Vuelta finishes on Sept. 11 in Madrid.
Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen of Team Sky won the Vattenfall Cyclassics on Sunday to follow up his win on the Eneco Tour the previous Sunday.
The 24-year-old Norwegian, who claimed two stage wins on last month’s Tour de France, won by a matter of centimeters from Germany’s Gerald Ciolek, while Slovenia’s Borut Bozic was third.
Boasson Hagen held off his rivals having been part of a 40-strong pack of riders that broke away from the peleton 15km from the finish.
“That was my best performance of the season so far, but when you are so close to victory, you want to win,” Ciolek said.
Russian road champion Pavel Brutt had dictated the early pace after a lone breakaway, but the 29-year-old was caught 25km from the finish.
This year’s Cyclassics attracted 22,000 hobby cyclists, who raced alongside the professionals, with about 700 police officers overseeing the route and an estimated 800,000 fans watching the action.