Meersman gets 2nd win of Vuelta, Atapuma keeps lead
LUGO, Spain (AP) Gianni Meersman of Belgium earned his second win in four days at the Spanish Vuelta after a sprint finish and a crash in the peloton in the final two kilometers on Wednesday.
Colombian Darwin Atapuma maintained the overall lead for a second day, after avoiding the fallen riders.
''I had a slight scare, the fall was just in front of me,'' Atapuma said. ''I thought when I braked that someone could hit me from behind, but fortunately I was able to stay upright.''
Chris Froome also dodged the pileup ''by inches,'' according to his Sky team. The Tour de France winner posted on Twitter: ''Phew! That was a close one''.
Meersman, an Etixx-Quick Step rider, got his first grand tour win on Sunday's second stage.
The 30-year-old cyclist secured his second after completing a relatively flat 171.3-kilometer (106.4-mile) ride from Viveiro to Lugo in 4 hours, 16 minutes, 42 seconds. He was in a small group juggling for position at the front of the pack when the crash occurred behind them.
Fabio Felline of Italy was second, followed by France's Kevin Reza in the same time as Meersman.
The stage featured Portuguese rider Tiago Machado on a breakaway run of over 150 kilometers (93 miles) that ended when the peloton swallowed him up with 13 kilometers (8 miles) to go.
Atapuma, a BMC rider, leads former winner Alejandro Valverde by 28 seconds. Froome trails by :32, followed by Colombian pair Nairo Quintana and Esteban Chaves at :38 behind.
The rest of the field trails by more than a minute, including three-time Vuelta winner Alberto Contador at 1:52.
''I don't know how long my legs will last,'' Atapuma said. ''We will fight day by day, and see what the Vuelta has in store for us.''
Thursday's stage continues in the northwestern province of Galicia with a 163.2-kilometer (101.4-mile) trip from Monforte de Lemos to Luintra.
The three-week race ends in Madrid on Sept. 11.