CAMINITO DEL REY, Spain – Alejandro Valverde won the second stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Sunday, with Michal Kwiatkowski taking the overall lead.
Valverde beat Kwiatkowski in the final meters of an uphill sprint to win the mostly flat stage that took riders 101.6 miles from the seaside city of Marbella to a final climb at the Caminito del Rey.
Valverde and Kwiatkowski made it to the front with less than yards to go and the Spaniard held on for victory. Belgian rider Laurens De Plus had taken the lead in the final kilometer but couldn’t stay ahead.
It was the 10th career stage win for Valverde in the Vuelta.
Durango’s Sepp Kuss, riding in his first career Grand Tour for Team LottoNL-Jumbo, was 119th during Saturday’s time trial and was 1:17 off the winning time of Rohan Dennis. Sunday, he was 115th and 10:11 behind Valverde. “One of my goals was to win a stage and that’s already accomplished,” said the 38-year-old Movistar rider, who won his only Vuelta title in 2009. “It’s a good start. We’ll go day-by-day from here.”
Valverde moved to second place overall, 14 seconds behind Kwiatkowski.
“It’s not the way I wanted to take the jersey, I was hoping to win the stage,” Kwiatkowski said. “The team was amazing ahead of the finale but Valverde was very impressive. In his country, when he races La Vuelta, it’s not easy to beat Alejandro.”
Wilco Kelderman, who crossed the line fourth on Sunday, is third overall and 25 seconds behind Valverde. De Plus, the third-place finisher on Sunday, was three seconds behind Kelderman overall.
Australia’s Rohan Dennis arrived with the red jersey after winning Saturday’s time trial in Malaga but faded on Sunday.
Kwiatkowski, a Polish rider, is leading Team Sky in the absence of defending Vuelta champion Chris Froome, who is not racing after winning the Giro d’Italia and finishing third in the Tour de France, which was won by teammate Geraint Thomas. Froome and Thomas will participate in the eight-day Tour of Britain starting on Sept. 2.
Monday’s third stage will be a 178.2-kilometer mountainous ride from Mijas to Alhaurin de la Torre.
The three-week race finishes in Madrid on Sept. 16.
The Durango Herald contributed to this report.