It was only the second stage of the final Grand Tour of the season, and only Aqua Blue Sport’s second day in a major tour, but the Irish team made an impact on stage 2 of La Vuelta a España when sprinter Adam Blythe took third place in a sprint finish.
Blythe finished just behind Yves Lampert and Matteo Trentin both of Quickstep in high winds and blazing sunshine as the peloton rushed across the line in the French seaside town of Gruissan.
The stage saw the breeze gusting in excess of 26 kilometres per hour in a tail-crosswind as the race sped southwards along the coast from the historic French town of Nimes.
A crash saw three Aqua Blue Sport riders on the road but their injuries amounted to a few grazes and some bruising; they remounted instantly and rejoined the pack.
There was a split in the pack with 60 kilometres to go but it was over a few short minutes later. The next flashpoint was with six kilometres to go as Team Sky caused a dramatic split in the pack.
Aqua Blue Sport made it into the front section as Mark Christian and Blythe succeeded in making the junction. It was a frenetic ride to the finish as the gusting high speed wind played havoc with the race.
The bunch, going a very hard pace, eventually tore the peloton into pieces. Quick-Step Floors put the hammer down in the final 5km to open the door for Yves Lampaert, with
Blythe finishing close behind the two Quickstep riders and taking third place.
After the stage Blythe said:
“I think we all knew the echelons were coming. We discussed with the team to be at the front in last 2km and stay there. Quick-Step played a tricky game and I didn’t have the legs. It’s a shame I couldn’t do more.”
Monday’s third stage is 158.5km from Prades Conflent Canigó to Andorra la Vella. It will see the mountains coming into play for the first time in this year’s Tour.