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Nicolas Roche wins and is for real

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Fotoreporter Sirotti

This Vuelta really starts off with a bang. Already on the second day we got a big mountaintop finish with some surprising results. A long 11 km climb at about 5,5% average where Movistar set a strong big-ring pace for most of the climb. This gave us some of the first negative answers of the race. Most notably, Euskaltel's Samuel Sanchez could not hold the pace as Sylvester Szmyd took the front. With a few kms to go he went out the back and this looks like the end of his challenge for the overall, already on stage 2. A disappointing result for the Spaniard who was said to be targeting the Vuelta especially this year. Was this the last we saw of him as a GT contender?

Other victims were Sky's Sergio Henao, Euskaltel's Igor Anton and Movistar's Benat Intxausti who all lost enough time to be stricken from the list of potential top finishers this year. Carlos Betancur of Ag2r also confirmed his disinterest by finishing almost 10 minutes down. thereby killing any hope that the French team could replicate their double-edged attack from the Giro. Same goes for Euskaltel who apparently will have to pin their hopes on Mikel Nieve alone in their last Vuelta as all their other potential top names have fallen by the wayside.

The real racing began within 2 kms from the finish as Leopold König set in a strong attack that only a few riders, Roche, Pozzovivo and Dani Moreno, were able to respond to. König could not hold them off to bring NetApp-Endura the win but it was instead Roche who set in a charge in the last kilometre. Moreno who was the fastest in the group tried to close down the attack but the irishman had timed his attack to perfection and had the power to keep the chasing Moreno behind him to take a welcome early stagewin for Saxo-Tinkoff. This was Roche's first Grand Tour stagewin and confirmation that he has the form to be a factor high up in the GC in this Vuelta.

In the main group of favorites Valverde, Basso, Rodriguez and Nibali all finished comfortably at the front and as race leader Janez Brajkovic had to let go of the group with about 2 kms to go, Nibali took over the leader's red jersey.

Stage result

1. IRLROCHE, Nicolas 205 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 4h 37' 09''
2. ESPMORENO, Daniel 127 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 37' 11'' + 2''
3. ITAPOZZOVIVO, Domenico 11 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 37' 15'' + 6''
4. CZEKONIG Leopold 151 TEAM NETAPP-ENDURA 4h 37' 20'' + 11''
5. ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro 1 MOVISTAR TEAM 4h 37' 21'' + 12''
6. ITAULISSI, Diego 139 LAMPRE-MERIDA 4h 37' 21'' + 12''
7. ESPRODRIGUEZ, Joaquin 121 KATUSHA TEAM 4h 37' 21'' + 12''
8. ITABASSO, Ivan 71 CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING 4h 37' 23'' + 14''
9. NEDMOLLEMA, Bauke 41 BELKIN-PRO CYCLING TEAM 4h 37' 23'' + 14''
10. COLURAN, Rigoberto 198 SKY PROCYCLING 4h 37' 23'' + 14''

General Classification

1. ITANIBALI, Vincenzo 31 ASTANA PRO TEAM 5h 07' 22''
2. IRLROCHE, Nicolas 205 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 5h 07' 30'' + 8''
3. ESPZUBELDIA, Haimar 189 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 5h 07' 32'' + 10''
4. USAHORNER, Christopher 184 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 5h 07' 32'' + 10''
5. CROKISERLOVSKI, Robert 186 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 5h 07' 32'' + 10''
6. COLURAN, Rigoberto 198 SKY PROCYCLING 5h 07' 44'' + 22''
7. BELHERMANS, Ben 183 RADIOSHACK LEOPARD 5h 07' 49'' + 27''
8. ESPVALVERDE, Alejandro 1 MOVISTAR TEAM 5h 07' 49'' + 27''
9. POLMAJKA, Rafal 202 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 5h 07' 54'' + 32''
10. CZEKREUZIGER, Roman 201 TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF 5h 07' 54'' + 32''