Vuelta a España (st. 3)
Spaniard takes leader’s jersey from team-mate Castroviejo after a narrow, photo-finish victory, Movistar Team’s second in the 2012 Vuelta. Intxausti also within top climbers, now 2nd overall
Movistar Team keep writing their history in golden letters in the 2012 Vuelta a España as they stepped once again onto the podium on Monday after the ascent towards the Santuario de Arrate, first summit finish of this year’s event after 155km and three categorized climbs from the start in Oyón. Alejandro Valverde is the new leader of the Spanish grandtour after a milimeter finish in front of Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT) in the mythical Basque summit, that witnessed a final rush where the Spaniard responded the immense teamwork from the telephone squad, which controlled the gaps of the eight-man break of the day alone for all the race. Halfway through the climb, and after overcoming their rivals into a 20-rider selected group, Valverde launched his first attack just over 4k from the finish line, always countered by Rodríguez, Contador (STB) and Froome (SKY), with whom, after several moves, went apart before the summit.
Valverde led the short, 2k descent until the final 500 meters, where Rodríguez took the first position in search for the decisive, last turn right. However, the Catalan rider stopped pedalling at the finishing straight as Valverde sneaked through to take -via a photo finish- Movistar Team’s 26th victory of the 2012 season, the 52th success for Eusebio Unzué’s structure in its long history in the Vuelta and the 68th from the Spaniard -also leading the Points and Combination rankings- in ten seasons as pro racer. Behind, Beñat Intxausti kept the second echelon of favourites to rank in 8th place and sit just behind Alejandro, 2nd in an overall classification likely to sort out further tomorrow in a second consecutive mountain-top finish: Valdezcaray (13k / 5 %), end point of a 160-kilometer trek starting at Barakaldo.
Alejandro Valverde: “It’s always a mystery how the first mountain stage can do, especially with this heat that could pay off for us. I started the climb a bit behind into the group, but as soon as I could overcome the bunch and reach the front, I attacked. I knew the Arrate climb, but it had been three years since I had climbed it; Purito remembered it better since he was this year at the Vuelta al País Vasco, and that made him take the first place. I was a bit scared, but I knew that I could get past him, he went a bit overconfident, stopped pedaling and I could squeeze my force and push my bike to the line. As well Purito as myself deserved to win. I wank to thank the team, which spent two long days pulling out hard and none like us deserved it after making such a considerable effort. Also, I want to dedicate it to my three children, Natalia, my family and all the fans supporting me through all this time. I didn’t have the Vuelta into my season schedule and for me, this is accomplishing my expectations, but now that we’re in the lead, we’ll try to defend it as long as we can. It will be hard, since the rivals are really strong, and everything coming up will be an extra. We have now two victories from three for the squad and you can’t ask for anything else.”
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