Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin quickly in thick of the action

Irish duo Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin were two of the strongest riders on yesterday’s second stage of the Vuelta A Espana, finishing third andfourth respectively.

Nicolas Roche and Dan Martin quickly in thick of the action

Team Sky’s Roche told the Irish Examiner on Saturday that he was coming into the race with a freer role than he had at the Tour de France in July, where he was riding solely to protect the interests of team leader Chris Froome.

And he revelled in the latitude afforded to him yesterday when he sprang clear of a rapidly diminishing front group on the approach to the line atopthe summit finish at Alto de la Mesa.

Esteban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge) and Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) werethe two others who were with Roche as they fought to put daylight between themselves and the chasers.

Roche just tailed off in the final few hundred metres, leaving theremaining two to duke it out for the win and it was Chaves who had more left as he sprinted away from the Dutchman to take the stage win and thefirst leader’s red jersey of this year’s race.

Exactly two years ago Roche took the red jersey after he won the same stage and he knew he was racing for the overall lead when he attacked. But he was philosophical at the finish.

“I had nothing left when Chaves attacked,” he said.

“I gave it my all and they were just better than me but I’m feeling good.

“I just followed the moves; if I waited for the normal later attacks it would have been harder so I went early.

“Today, Movistar and Katusha did a lot of work at the front of the race early on so by the finish they had a lot of fellas already tired so it was more open in the finish.

“If it was a longer finish, we might have had a different scenario in thefinal but it was one that suited me and good for me.”

Martin, meanwhile, looked in superb shape too as he crossed the line just five seconds behind Roche and they are also now third and fourth on theGeneral Classification going into today’s third stage from Mijas to Malaga.

Josie Knight brought her Junior World Track Championships campaign to an end in Kazakhstan yesterday, finishing ninth overall in the omnium event.

The Dingle woman has enjoyed a good weekend and finished fourth inFriday’s two-kilometre Individual Pursuit, 0.146 seconds behind Madeleine Park of New Zealand.

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