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La Vuelta a España 2012 – Stage 2: Pamplona – Viana, 181.4 km

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Pamplona

We’re so lucky with televised cycling in 2012. I returned from my 500 metre run back from the Dalriada Bar on Joppa sea front on the ‘fixie’ – having easily distanced Marlene on her Giant shopper – and there was the Vuelta TTT around Pamplona repeated on Eurosport. Perfect; I didn’t catch it live on Saturday night – that’s ‘pictures night,’ TTT or not.

In case you’re wondering, we saw Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Notorious’ with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman at the Filmhouse.

Next up after the TTT was the Hamburg Classic; and good to see a French rider up there – it’s been too long.

We were there when Demare won the U23 Worlds in Copenhagen – he’s quick!

Then it was straight to stage two of the Vuelta – amazing.

It was good to see Movistar win the opening TTT, a home win is always good for the race.

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Castrviejo enjoys the feeling of leading a Grand Tour.

Castroviejo was very strong in the Olympic road race – and despite his exertions in the early break, rode a good TT in London, too.

His position on the bike reminds me of Marco Pinotti – low, sleek, aero and powerful.

But as I was saying about ‘luck’ – when Dave and I were boys, we’d wait all of Saturday for our 15 minutes of ‘Continental cycling’ on World of Sport.

However, if Eddy Merckx had cleared off to win by some yawning margin, old Dickie Davies would tell us; ‘there wasn’t much to see – so instead we were going live to the bowling in Brighton,’ or back to Chepstow for ‘the horses.’

And here we are on a Sunday afternoon with two Vuelta stages and a Classic to watch – hard to take in.

Stage two was your typical Vuelta sprint stage; they’ve looked like that since I bought my first satellite system back in the early 90’s.

Long straight roads shimmering in the heat haze, long suicide breaks by lower ranked Spanish riders – and very few spectators beside the road.

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The peloton in the Vuelta. Photo Team Sky.

Spain is a big country, 506,000 square kilometres; that’s more than double the size of the UK (243,000 square kilometres) but the population is only around two thirds of ours – 47 million to 62 million.

The other factor is that most of the Spanish population lives around the coast.

When you leave the coast and drive up on to the central plateau there aren’t many places to stop for a beer before you get to Madrid.

It looked like Ben Swift had it, but he maybe went just that wee bit too early?

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Degenkolb’s is still only 23 – and his tail is up.

Argos have strong morale; the German recently won a stage in the Tour of Poland and he’s had a good year – fifth at Sanremo, sixth in the E3, stages in Dunkerque and stages and the GC in Picardie.

He was originally a track rider, he won the German novices pursuit back in 2004 before graduating to time trialling – with a German national junior title in 2007 backed by a silver medal in the discipline at the Worlds.

He took third in the U23 Worlds road race in ‘08 and second in ’10 – which was an excellent season with wins in the Ras, Bretagne, Alsace and l’Avenir – not to mention stage wins and the GC in the Thuringen Rundfahrt.

Last year he was with Cav on HTC and won stages in the Algarve, West Flanders, Bayern Rundfahrt and Dauphine – as well as the Frankfurt Loop.

Tomorrow’s stage, 153 K from Faustino to Arrate is a toughie with a saw tooth profile and climb to a fast last K – Degenkolb again?

Or will Viviani have that omnium out of his system?

Ben Swift – it’s possible?

Or will it be too hard for the sprinters?

Castroviejo has this to say about it;

“There’s an important day ahead for the squad tomorrow in Arrate.

“Even though it’s not a long climb and I know it well, we must be realistic and the strong riders for the overall must be up-front, so we hope that a team-mate stays in the lead.

“It’s a typical finish from the Vuelta al País Vasco, a short, yet hard climb where we’ll see who can win this year’s Vuelta.”

Adios!

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Laurent Didier does the needful.

Results - La Vuelta a España 2012 - Stage 2