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by Shane Stokes
February 16, 2018
Van Avermaet wins stage 3 of the Tour of Oman; Poels wins stage 2 of the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol; Kwiatkowski takes first win of season on stage 2 of Volta ao Algarve; Tough economic conditions mean an end for the Tour of Alberta; Sharing leadership with Dennis, Roche hunting top 10 in Giro d’Italia; Trek XC team signs Ellen Noble and Evie Richards; D’hoore looks towards title defence of world Madison title; Video: Chasing Spartacus – updates on Phil’s “race” with Fabian Cancellara, Part I; Video: Peter Sagan – The Crazy Man; Video: The problem with cars; Video: A Fixie Documentary
Teammate Chris Froome was the more scrutinised Sky rider heading into the race due to his career success and the not-insignificant fact that he has an adverse analytical finding hanging over him, but it was Wout Poels who made the headlines on Thursday.
The Dutchman was best on stage two of the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta del Sol, attacking twice inside the final kilometre and snapping the elastic on the second occasion. He beat Luis León Sanchez (Astana) and Tim Wellens (Lotto-Soudal) by two seconds, with Mikel Landa (Movistar) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) a further two seconds back. Froome finished 27 seconds down in seventh place.
“I was waiting for a good moment to attack when I bridged to Tim Wellens, and then everybody came back together,” he said. “Then with 300m to go I thought I had to go full-on now as it wasn’t that steep, but I had enough speed to win. I was not happy how I started the season in Valencia, but I did some good training afterwards and was happier with my performance here. The next couple of days are flatter so it will be important not to lose any seconds ahead of Sunday’s TT.”
The stage from Otura to Jaén was 140 kilometres in length and saw an early nine-man break go clear. Three riders later pushed on ahead from this group, with Alexis Gougeard (Ag2R La Mondiale), Pascal Eenkhoorn (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Diego Rubio (Burgos-BH) trying to fend off the bunch. The latter was the last to resist, but he was finally caught with just under two kilometres to go.
The big contenders then fired off several attacks on the uphill slopes through the olive trees, with Poels ultimately proving strongest and grabbing the race lead. He will begin Friday’s third stage two seconds clear of Sanchez and Wellens.