That’s the Tour of the Alps formula: short stages, climbs, elevation gain, show. From Innsbruck to Feichten im Kaunertal (121,5 km), that’s exactly what happened in stage 2 on April 20th, 2021.
The frantic pace from the start and the double punch to the Piller Sattel climb put everybody on the ropes but expressed a very clear outcome at the end of the effort in Feichten im Kaunertal: Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange) is the man to beat for the Melinda leader’s jersey in Riva del Garda.
The BikeExchange Brit was clearly the strongest when the race was decided, on the ascent to Piller Sattel – Kaunergrat, the first Cat. 1 climb of this Tour of the Alps (7,5 km at 9,3% average), preceded by another Piller Sattel ascent from another slope, Gachenblick.
After the dig by Nairo Quintana’s Arkea-Samsic Team and two attacks from the Colombian Condor, Yates rose to the chair: five acceleration to get rid of everybody else with 1 km to the top and launch himself in the fast and technical descent and towards his first seasonal success.
“Today it was a perfect stage for my characteristics: short, fast and explosive. That’s why I am so happy to be here at the Tour of the Alps,” told Yates. “That’s the kind of race that I like, those in which I give my best, and the best testing ground in the build-up for the Giro d’Italia.”
“I knew I would be taking in plenty of strong rivals, so I can be very happy with my first seasonal win. Quintana, Sivakov and Carthy all looked strong on the Piller Sattel, but maybe spent a little too much energy too soon, and could not keep up when approaching the KOM.”
“Here at the Tour of the Alps it’s fast and aggressive every day,” Yates continued, “and that’s why I expect something to happen also tomorrow, though in a less insidious stage on cards. The fourth stage will present a different profile, with longer climbs: I don’t know yet what our tactics will be, but the race is certainly not closed yet.”
After leaving Innsbruck, a group made of Reuben Thompson (Groupama-FDJ), Janse Van Rensburg (Qhubeka-ASSOS), Mathias Vacek (Gazprom-Rusvelo), Davide Bais (Eolo-Kometa), Morten Hulgaard (Uno-X Pro Cycling) and Felix Engelhardt (Tirol KTM Cycling Team) went clear and try to open a gap, but Gianni Moscon’s Ineos Grenadiers never conceded more than three minutes to them.
The leaders lost Van Rensburg on the ascent to Arzl im Pitztal, while the first time to Piller Sattel (Gachenblick, Cat. 2) left Bais and Thompson alone in the lead just before reaching the top.
The escapees were reeled in with 26 km to go, on the early ramps of Piller Sattel – Kaunergrat (7,5 km at 9,3%), under the huge pace made by Arkea-Samsic. Nairo Quintana broke the stalemate and made a first attack, and then with a second left only Carthy (EF-Education Nippo), Yates (Team BikeExchange) and Sivakov (INEOS Grenadiers) on his wake.
Yates took over from there, with five attacks in the space of few kilometers to drop Carthy and Quintana first, and finally also Sivakov.
Passed over the top with a 15 second gap, Yates extended it in the following technical and fast descent. The 2018 Vuelta a Espana winner had 40 seconds at the foot of the final ascent to Feichten im Kaunertal, and managed to hold them until the finish, taking over both the Melinda green jersey and the best climber’s Gruppo Cassa Centrale light-blue jersey.
Behind him, Vlasov (Astana PremierTech), Cepeda (Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec), Martin (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Hindley (Team DSM) had managed to come back on the closest chasers, but in the end Sivakov found new energies to end in second place with a 41-second gap. Martin clinched the third place at 0:58, crossing the line along with Vlasov and Ecuadorian Cepeda, the new best youngster’s Wūrth Modyf white jersey. Austrian Engelhardt (Tirol KTM Cycling Team) held on the Intermediate Sprints PMG Sport red jersey.
Nairo Quintana suffered the earlier efforts and won’t be happy with his 1:42 gap, the same as Bardet (Team DSM). Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) suffered a heavy 12:11 gap, while Chris Froome (Israel Start-Up-Nation) came in at 14:19. Yesterday’s winner Moscon ended at 3:11 after enjoying his 27th birthday in the leader’s jersey.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, the riders will return in Italy with the third stage, from Imst (Tirol) to Naturns/Naturno (Südtirol), 162 km and nearly 3.000 meters of elevation gain between another run-up to Piller Sattel, the Reschenpass/Passo Resia, the tough and technical Frinig climb and the steep Frinig drag with 18 km to go, that might well prove decisive for the day’s outcome. The show has just begun.