Kron grabs emotional Vuelta stage win for 'heartbroken' team

Andreas Kron taking victory in the second stage of La Vuelta (Pau BARRENA)
Andreas Kron taking victory in the second stage of La Vuelta (Pau BARRENA)

Andreas Kron took the second stage of the Vuelta Espana on Sunday to give "heartbroken" Lotto Dstny their first World Tour win of the season, two days after the team's first-year pro Tijl De Decker died following a training crash.

"A win means a lot for me and the team especially in the hard time the team is going through," Kron told broadcaster Eurosport.

"We got the news and we were really heartbroken and we are still heartbroken but this is the best way to show we will keep fighting for him as a team."

"I never met him.... but we will always keep riding for him."

Kron said that in the Vuelta squad Lennert Van Eetvelt was closest to fellow Belgian rider De Decker.

Van Eetvelt struggled to control his emotions as he spoke at the finish line.

"Really great to win after what happened a few days ago," he said.

"It's weird...we're happy we won but we want to take a moment to think about what happened."

The stage effectively had two finish lines, one atop Montjuic and one nine kilometres earlier, where Italian Andrea Piccolo grabbed the overall lead.

After a downpour payed havoc with the opening team time trial round Barcelona on Saturday, and with more rain forecast on Sunday, organisers ruled before the start that times for the general classification would be taken at the foot of the tricky final climb.

Piccolo, an Italian, who rides for EF Education who were third on Saturday, was part of a long breakaway.

As rain began to fall again the riders entered Barcelona at the end of a 182km run from Mataro, the peloton eased off its pursuit.

That allowed Piccolo to reach the 9km mark with enough of an advantage to take the overall lead from compatriot Lorenzo Milesi, one of several riders who crashed during the stage. Milesi eventually crossed the line nearly 14 minutes after Kron.

"Really slippery a lot of tension coming through," said French rider Romain Bardet, one of Milesi's DSM team-mates who started the day tied for the lead. "Two races in one. Really hectic."

Piccolo was swallowed by the pack a kilometre later. The leading contenders were then ambushed by Kron who escaped up the wooded hillside to win.

- 'Pawns in the game' -

Australian sprinter Kaden Groves led a small chasing group across the line in second while the leading contenders, their times already decided at 9km, rolled in together after opting to play it safe.

Groves said there had been an argument in the peloton over whether to chase the breakaway on increasingly slippery roads, with the teams of the leading contenders wanting the pack to slow down.

"They were trying to take the initiative to calm the bunch down," said Groves.

"A little awkward with ourselves and DSM trying to close the breakaway. Today was a chance for us and we had to race and they didn't appreciate it.

"Sometimes crashes happen we're willing to take that risk to take our chance."

Several of the leading contenders were unhappy before the day's start.

"I don't if it's the organisation, but it seems they don't care about our safety at all," Tour de France champion Jonas Vingegaard, whose Jumbo-Visma team took it easy in Saturday's rain and finished ninth fastest, losing 32 seconds to DSM.

Saturday's stage also finished in near darkness after a late start.

"It was crazy, especially for the last few teams. It wasn't ideal, " said former winner Geraint Thomas

The Welshman's Ineos team lost Lauren de Plus, who crashed early on Saturday's stage, and Thomas complained that the riders were "just pawns in the game" with "television and money a greater priority for organisers.