Vuelta a Andalucia (st. 3)
Movistar Team defends Valverde’s leader jersey solvently and will face a final test tomorrow at the hilltop finish in the province of Jaén
Taking full charge of responsibility linked to a leading position, Movistar Team led the bunch during all the third stage in the 58th Vuelta a Andalucía, 157km from Montemayor y Las Gabias, where the telephone squad could keep the red jersey by Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish rider and his team mates controlled the pack during a rolling stage with three categorized climbs, including a hectic first half hour of racing with several attempts before a breakaway could form, with Frenchman David Le Lay (SAU) as best overall placed rider, 38secs back on Valverde. With Ignatas Konovalovas, Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez and Vasil Kiryienka always on the front of the group, joined by the teams with sprinters in the late phase, the break was chased down into the first slopes of the Alto de la Malahá, 5k from the finish, and the final climb just took some pieces out of the group contesting the sprint, with Óscar Freire (KAT) as first.
Valverde and the rest of the team are still one day far from glory as Movistar Team chases for a stagerace overall in the 2012 season. The riders directed by José Luis Arrieta will find tomorrow 135 kilometers from Jaén to La Guardia, with four cols on the route including the finish, a 1.8k slope with ramps up to 20% gradient.
QUOTES / Alejandro Valverde: “It was, above all, a really moving day. The race was really fast from the start, the first hour of racing was crazy because everyone was trying to make the break, so it took a long way to get formed. We were interested on a small break to go ahead and we always got nine or ten riders into every move, so we had to chase them down. At the end we were lucky with the escape that got apart because, despite Le Lay being a bit closer, we didn’t let them earn more than three minutes. There was some tension, but no danger. The team were superb again today and that keeps me calm. With such a block, I feel really protected. I know some kilometers from tomorrow’s finish in La Guardia. If I feel OK, it’s a great finish for me, but my only goal for tomorrow is keeping the leader jersey. I already said yesterday that I was happy with a stage win and that’s already accomplished, so we will ride calm tomorrow, but focused on keeping the jersey.”