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Vuelta’09 St.2: Surprise, Surprise! It’s …
Race Report: Well, how often do the battered pro riders who’ve not quite set the plains and passes of Europe a-flame during the season roll into the Vuelta looking for redemption? Pretty damn near every year, and there’s a host of ’em, is the answer. Today was the turn of a guy and a team who needed a big win more than most.

Yep, when you look at the Pro Tour teams over the season there have been the great, the good and the spectacular under-achievers. Hello, Milram! Today is your day!

It came down to a sprint, as expected … but the winner wasn’t Farrar (who’s still on a hot streak); or Boonen (back to some semblance of form?) or even the practically unbeatable Andre Griepel.

The victory bouquet is grasped in the mitts of Gerald Ciolek, who’s not had too much podium time in 2009. It’s a huge day for the German farmer boys, as they’ve won very little this season. If you’re going to change that, then a Giro, Tour or Vuelta stage is a good place to start.

It’s a Grand Tour, so the obligatory breakaway group showed exactly which sponsors had been having a word with the DSs.

Vacansoleil are in the big three-week league for the first time, so Lieuwe Westra drew the short straw and was off the front after just 3kms.

Along with him were Francisco Jose Martinez Perez (Andalucia- Cajasur) and David Garcia Da Pena (Xacobeo-Galicia) representing the Spanish wildcard teams. So, too, Dominik Roels from Milram, who’ve had a rotten year, all-in-all, and Rabobank’s Tom Leezer. And, Menchov at the Giro apart, they’ve been pretty ropey in 2009 as well.

Leezer got over the first climb of the race to snag the King of the Mountains jersey – mind you, most of us gain more height going upstairs to bed every night. Not so much a mountain as a molehill.

The gap got out to seven minutes at half-distance with Cancellara’s Saxo-boys keeping the lid on things. Garmin-Slipstream (for Farrar) and QuickStep for (Boonen) came up to lend a hand and the gap started to evaporate.

One thing the Vuelta gets a but of abuse for is the sometimes long, sometimes boring, sometimes fan-free stages in the first week. That’s not my view, necessarily; it’s just what “they”ќ say! Plenty of supporters out cheering today though.

A couple of big crashes saw Griepel held up, and Fuji’s Fredrik Kessiakoff roll back to the doctor’s car for some treatment.

20kms to go, and it looks like Frank Schleck has been caught out by the pile-up. He’s off the back and clawing his way towards the main field. Lieuwe Westra has gone for it alone as the other breakaways are toasted and the young Dutchman is solo.

10kms to go, Westra is caught and Columbia-HTC are hitting the big ring, looking for a Griepel win. Garmin, Liquigas and QuickStep jerseys are in the mix, too. It’s a big sprint finish, just as predicted.

Adam Hansen and Marcel Sieberg are hammering on the front, with Griepel lurking, but the German speedster is blunted as he gets caught in traffic. Ciolek wins it in the photo ahead of Fabio Sabatini and Roger Hammond rounds out the surprise top-three.

Fab stays in gold, but Ciolek is in with a sniff if the cards fall his way again tomorrow.

Keep it Pez for all the Vuelta action!

Vuelta 2009 Stage 2 Assen-Emmen, 204kms

1 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Miram 4hrs 43′ 12″ќ
2 Fabio Sabatini (Ita) Liquigas
3 Roger Hammond (Gbr) Cervelo Test Team
4 Andre Griepel (Ger) Columbia-HTC
5 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream
6 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis
7 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel) Silence-Lotto
8 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quickstep
9 Davide Vigano (Ita) Fuji-Servetto
10 Sebastien Chavanel (Fra) Francaise des Jeux all same time

Vuelta 2009 Overall after Stage 2

1 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team SaxoBank 4hrs 48′ 32″ќ
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Milram +8″
3 Tom Boonen (Bel) QuickStep +9″
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin-Slipstream +12″
5 Jens Mouris (Ned) Vacansoleil +14″ќ
6 Daniele Bennat (Ita) Liquigas +16″ќ
7 David Garcia (Spa) Xacobeo-Galicia +18″ќ
8 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas +18″ќ
9 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’ Epargne +18″ќ
10 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Columbia-HTC +19″ќ


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