Spaniard now tied 3rd with Froome (SKY) in the Vuelta overall after responding well against the favourites in the first stage of the mountain trio this weekend
With two weeks of racing already covered, Alejandro Valverde keeps resisting and taking steps forward into a 2012 Vuelta a España, where he continues to show up his level as one of the strongest riders into the bunch. The Spaniard was 3rd at the Cat. 1 Puerto de Ancares, the last of five climbs in the first big mountain stage of the weekend, over 149km starting at Palas de Rei. Movistar Team made a notable appearance since the very first stages of the race thanks to the breakaway by Javi Moreno, into a 16-rider group always under control by STB, not conceeding more than three minutes of advantage.
The Andalusian’s escape kept together until the approach to Ancares, where Losada (KAT) launched a solo attack only responded by the main favourites, led by Valverde who tested his legs with a move at the 3km-to-go mark. The counter by Contador (STB) and the final response from Rodríguez (KAT) into the final kilometer awarded the Murcian the day’s 3rd spot, 13 seconds behind Purito as the Catalan reinforced his overall lead with a third stage triumph. Valverde, 1.41 behind him, is now tied 3rd overall with Froome (SKY) as stage fifteen will offer another chance to clear things up: 186km between La Robla and the Lagos de Covadonga, HC climb preceeded by the Alto del Mirador del Fito (Cat. 1), 40k from the finish.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really hard day. The pace by Saxo Bank all over the stage was really strong and we have to compliment them. The legs were responding well, but I think I came a bit too enthusiastic with that move and you can’t go past all the attacks afterwards, so I went on my own pace until the line. The rivals are not weak at all: Contador seemed to have great legs and he proved it again today, and Purito is impossible at the moment, so being always into a margin of 12 or 13 seconds is something to be happy about. I think Alberto, Purito and myself are the three strongest guys at the front now, we’re showing it and I hope to get this way until the finish. Now, with two stage victories and three third places with this one, I’d be happy with the podium in Madrid. I think that the stage tomorrow is a bit less hard, but the Lagos, even though I don’t know them, will make big gaps because they’re so hard. We made it up-front at all summit finishes and we will keep fighting to take good results.”