Vuelta a España (st. 15)
Spaniard gets helped by exceptional Quintana to step onto the provisional podium of the Spanish grandtour, with Movistar Team as new squads’ overall leader; Lastras takes 5th at day’s winning break
Movistar Team completed an almost flawless stage on Sunday during the second day of the mountainous trio in the 2012 Vuelta a España, finishing atop the HC Lagos de Covadonga after 186 kilometers from La Robla and the climbs of Santo Emiliano (Cat. 3) and El Fito (Cat. 1). Alejandro Valverde made the third place in the overall classification after sticking to the best two riders in the race, Rodríguez (KAT) and Contador (STB), through the climbs of the Asturian colossus.
The great work from the telephone squad started at the opening bang, with a 19-man breakaway where Pablo Lastras filtered and passed the initial selection to make the way into the last climb along with nine other riders, over a peloton that conceeded them up to fifteen minutes of advantage. At the foot of the Lagos, Spaniard Antonio Piedra (CJR) attacked in search for the stage win while Lastras went on his own for all other moves to end up in a notable 5th spot, returning to a grand tour here after the bad crash suffered in the Giro, and taking a crucial gap to get Movistar Team on top of the squads’ overall.
Behind, Valverde stood the strong rhythm in the approach to the ascent and made all cuts before turning offensive in the steep La Huesera section, 7k from the finish. Reached by Rodríguez and Contador and helped by Nairo Quintana, who tried to make the bridge for the Spaniard by moving to the front in the first slopes, Alejandro saved all attacks from the duo until the line as he obtained a serious gap (35 seconds at the finish) over Froome (SKY), now overtaken at the third place before the 2012 Vuelta queen stage: 183km between Gijón and Cuitunigru (HC), featuring the climbs of San Lorenzo (Cat. 1) and La Cobertoria (Cat. 1).
Pablo Lastras: “At the Lagos, you have to be realistic with your own strengths, and I didn’t have good legs. I went through much effort in the previous days to make the breakaways or helping the team-mates, and you realize you spent too many energy to concentrate them in a day like today and fight for a stage victory. But that’s what I have to do. We came here to shine on a collective level and that’s clear for us in this squad. Today’s wasn’t the most suited stage for me. I already said I had stages like Ferrol or La Lastrilla marked into my plans, but we came here to help Alejandro out, and nothing else. I knew I stood no chance in the finale to chase the win, and I focused on taking a good bite to the teams’ overall. I wasn’t looking for any individual glory; I already had it in Pamplona. I’m going through some physical problems that made me feel weak these days, but I’m recovering and also feel mentally reinforced thanks to the rest day coming up, where I hope to get some energy for the last five days. More personal chances? No. The only thing I want is protecting Alejandro. I like to ride with Alejandro, putting my handlebar before him at difficult moments, taking care of him… It’s hard, but I think I’m capable doing it. He’s really convinced, motivated… He could relax after winning two stages, but he wants to fight for the podium. I think the team is doing a great work, though we all miss Rojas so much. Yesterday was Javi into the break, with Imanol, Castro, myself into the support… We all support each other and have our space and our task into the squad.”
Alejandro Valverde: “When I saw Froome cracking, I chose to attack. Nairo had previosly jumped ahead and did a great work for me through the climb. Alberto and Purito were stronger and attacked each other, but I decided not to follow them and always keep my own pace instead to take time on Froome. The overall podium is all but guaranteed: there’s still a hard day tomorrow, also the Bola del Mundo on Saturday and we’re one week from the end. Besides, he’s still very close and even though he loses a bit of time every day, we must never rule him out. I’m happy with this third place at the moment: Purito is really fit, Alberto is strong too, but we must wait and see how the race goes.”