Nicolas Roche rides into leader's red jersey after second place finish on stage two of Vuelta a Espana
Nicolas Roche has secured the leader’s jersey at the Vuelta a Espana after finishing second to Nairo Quintana in today’s second stage from Benidorm to Calpe.
Roche was part of an elite group of six riders that pulled clear in the key move of the day with 20km to go, but 3km from the finish line Quintana attacked and managed to hold off a late charge to win five seconds ahead of Roche after a thrilling finale.
However, the in-form Irish rider’s six bonus seconds for finishing second were enough to see him into the overall race lead for just the second time in his career.
Roche now leads the Colombian by two seconds with Rigoberto Uran six seconds further back.
After the race, Roche was naturally elated, taking the jersey for the second time in his career after spending one day in red in 2013.
"I thought then I could hold it for two or three days, but I just got the one day out of it. Still, to hold the leader's jersey in a Grand Tour is something most professional cyclists never get to do in their lives. I'm absolutely delighted with it"
Asked why he seems to ride better in the Vuelta a Espana, rather than the Giro d'Italia or the Tour de France, the Irishman replied - "it's just my time of year. I also prefer the dry heat of Spain in August to the humid heat of France in July, that does make a difference to me, I'm an Irishman, but I like this heat."
Roche will now try to keep the lead for more than one day this time as the next two days should be for the sprinters. Ironically the other Irishman in the race, Sam Bennett, was the guy tipped to do well in this stage, but the steep Cumbre del Sol climb 25km from the finish did for Sam.
It was the same climb where Roche was able to infiltrate the winning move.
"I actually tipped Sam for the stage myself this morning," said Roche, "maybe he could get the win over the next two days and I could keep the jersey." Now that would be a fine Irish double.
Look out for Nicolas Roche's Vuelta a Espana diary in the Irish Independent and on Independent.ie throughout the race, starting on Monday.