Rui Costa -still 11th in the overall- and Alejandro Valverde have a crash-free day in the first alpine stage of the Tour de France, make the selected group of favourites before an important test tomorrow atop Madeleine, Croix-de-Fer and La Toussuire
Movistar Team started recovering their best image at the 2012 Tour de France on Wednesday following a difficult first half of the race with a good performance from their two main references, Rui Costa and Alejandro Valverde, in the opening Alps route with the climbs of Corlier (Cat. 2), Le Grand Colombier (HC) and Richemond (Cat. 3) in the 194k from Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. At the second toughest one, the two riders from the telephone squad sticked to the group of favourites containing less than 30 riders, the bunch split by attacks from Van den Broeck (LTB) and Nibali (LIQ) as they pursued the original 25-rider break, with no Movistar Team riders from the six still alive as Rubén Plaza and Vasil Kiryienka keep suffering from pain in their ribs -the Belarusian also suffered a crash in the same zone early in the stage-, led by Voeckler (EUC) over the final slope. Three minutes behind, the group containing race leader Wiggins (SKY) brought Valverde and Costa with good sensations before a horrific stage on Thursday, only 148k from Albertville to La Toussuire (Cat. 1), yet containing the infamous Madeleine (HC), Croix-de-Fer (HC) and the Col du Mollard (Cat. 2).
Alejandro Valverde: “This is the first mountain stage I complete in good condition and that’s already satisfactory for me in this Tour. We suffered like every other guy in the race, but made the front and that’s a good sign. We know that tomorrow could be a good day for us to get into the break, but many others will want, too. Today was a bit more complicated because there was too many flat sections, everyone was to get to the front and we must have more chances tomorrow. Leaving aside the fact that I’m not contesting the GC, this stage made me gain confidence because I saw myselt at the same level of the big guns. In fact, the time I lost, except for the ITT’s, was due to crashes or punctures. Shouldn’t it have happened, I’d be there. My body is suffering after the blows, but I felt better today and I’m really excited to bring some joy to all those fans waiting me to be up-front.”
Rui Costa: “I thought it was going to be an easier day, a breakaway let go and saving energy, it wasn’t the case. We went fast all day and I had a flat tire at the foott of the Grand Colombier. Before that, I was already suffering a bit due to the hard pace, and after that, it was even harder for me to close that gap. The important thing is that I could make it to the front and we’re still alive in the overall. My feelings weren’t the best today, but I hope to get a good day after a bad day, as it happened in Switzerland. It was important for the two of us, Alejandro and myself, to get to the front because we motivate ourselves to each other, and after such bad luck, this makes us confident towards what’s ahead.”