Valverde closes on final podium

10 March 2012
Imagen de la noticia ‛Valverde closes on final podium’

P.-Nice (s7) / Tirreno (s4)

Misfortune by Leipheimer, crashed three times, takes the Spaniard into the top three in the GC before Sunday’s mountain time trial up the Col d’Eze (9.6km) that will decide the French event

Alejandro Valverde has jumped into 3rd place in the provisional overall of the 70th Paris-Nice after a mountainous stage seven, over 220 hard kilometers from Sisteron to the capital city of the Côte d’Azur. Valverde is gaining a place after bad luck stroke American Levi Leipheimer (OPQ), suffering three crashes over the route -two of them into the descent of the last climb, where Movistar Team took control of the tempo from the start of the downhill- that cost him more than fifteen minutes at the finish line. Belgian Thomas De Gendt (VCD) took the day’s honours via a very long breakaway with more than nine minutes over the group of Wiggins, Westra and Valverde -Rojas was 6th into the stage-, the three man to contest the race’s overall tomorrow in the definitive 9.6km mountain TT up the mythical Col d’Eze (almost 5% average grandient), with Spilak, Van Garderen and Monfort –all of them less than 30 seconds behind Valverde- as main alternatives to the actual podium in the French race.

REACTION / Yvon Ledanois (DS): “We got over this day well. Alejandro went through a couple of days in not so good condition, but feel better today and comes into the mountain TT with all chances alive. Though Wiggins seems to be the favourite, I think that all best three overall can do well over the climb. I don’t think there will be big time gaps, plus we must keep an eye on Westra, because not so many count on him. Alejandro knows the climb well and that will do really good on him. Anything could happen tomorrow because, even though it doesn’t seem like a complicated climb, we have spent seven days of full-speed racing and that will count a lot. We knew that the descent was long and dangerous and had to stay on front. We have talked about it this morning and that’s how we did. Leipheimer’s thing had nothing to do and was bad luck for him, I don’t think there’s any polemics on that. We didn’t go on full steam during the descent, simply because it had no sense to do so, we just avoided risks by taking Alejandro on the lead of the group.”

Sagan strongest at Tirreno-Adriático
In turn, Tirreno-Adriatico saw a marathon 250-kilometer stage from Amelia to Chieti crossing the Appenines, with a sprint victory for Slovakian Peter Sagan (LIQ) into a short field overcoming the final, hard 2k of ascent. The hardness of the route left barely 70 riders into the main field at the bottom of the final climb, with all eight Movistar Team riders on top. Rui Costa (19th) and Beñat Intxausti (24th) were the best Blue performers at the end of the day, with José Herrada, Pablo Lastras and Andrey Amador also within a minute behind the winner. American Chris Horner (RNT) is the new leader of the race before the Queen stage in this year’s Italian event: 196 kilometers from Martinsicuro to the ski station of Prati di Tivo (14.5km / 6.5%), with no rest from the start plus the tough Piano Roseto, whose summit will be located 34k from the end.