Vuelta a España (st. 6)
Fine work from Movistar Team riders allows Valverde taking 3rd at the Fuerte del Rapitán behind GC leader Rodríguez (KAT) and Froome (SKY); Spaniard now 6th overall, with Cobo closing the top ten
Recovered form the intense effort last Tuesday en route to Valdezcaray, the Movistar Team riders showed their best form again at the third summit finish of the 2012 Vuelta a España. The inedit finish atop the Fuerte del Rapitán in Jaca was the decisive point of a 175-kilometer stage starting at Tarazona, where the Blues took most of the responsibility at the front of the bunch. The telephone squad started taking turns before the climb of Oroel (Cat. 3), in search for a five-man breakaway that still counted on a 4-minute advantage with just over 40k from the finish.
Starting with a recovered Erviti and Pablo Lastras to reduce the gaps; then, right into the climb, with Moreno, Castroviejo and a spectacular Nairo Quintana to approach the quintet; and finally, with Lastras himself as well as José Joaquín Rojas and Beñat Intxausti to put a selected group -always with Cobo and Valverde- at the foot of the climb. While the Cantabrian struggled at the final kilometer, the Murcian kept the front till the final 400 meters, where a strong move by Froome (SKY) launched GC leader Joaquim Rodríguez (KAT) towards the day’s victory.
Valverde, 3rd into the stage at 12 seconds, and Cobo, 12th at 35, are both now into the provisional top ten overall -Alejandro in 6th, less than a minute behind; Juanjo in 10th, 1.34 back- at the expense of another mountain-top finish on Saturday at the Andorran Coll de la Gallina. Before that, the Motorland speedway in Alcañiz will hold a flat stage seven in the Vuelta, with 164km starting at Huesca.
QUOTES / Alejandro Valverde: “I think the overview must be good. We made a strong bet for the stage win, but you can’t always take it — at least we were there until the very end. When Froome attacked, I was on Contador’s wheel, he lost a big of distance and, counting that I wasn’t already super and I came a bit dubious about closing the gap, they took some meters. When I saw that the stage win was impossible, I went on full throttle after the last turn to take some time on Contador and snatch the bonus seconds. It seems like we are the four strongest men on course and we’re ver much equal to each other, even though I already stated I don’t know how much time I’ll stay this way. We must get through this day by day. Today’s finish was good for me, but even better for Purito thanks to his explosive conditions, and he took advantage of that. There are still a lot of summit finishes coming up, plus we mustn’t forget the ITT, where we expect not to lose too much time. The stage was super hard, not only by the heat, but also by the rolling terrain, over bad roads, wind, much tension… The team was sensational. They made an impressive approach to the climb. Positioning was absolutely important here and we came into perfect situation. They were genius, from the first to the last one. We couldn’t crown it but as well Cobo as myself, we were close. It’s very important for us to see how Juanjo is already doing, because I think he’ll end the Vuelta in really good shape.”
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