Vuelta a España (st. 16)
Valverde 5th at Cuitunigru, consolidates third place overall in Vuelta after phenomenal team work from Quintana (6th) and Intxausti (11th), who reinforce Movistar Team’s collective leadership
The Queen stage in the 2012 Vuelta a España offered again the best image from Movistar Team in the 183 kilometers between Gijón and the infamous Cuitunigru (HC), with the previous climbs towards La Cabruñana (Cat. 3), San Lorenzo (Cat. 1) and La Cobertoria (Cat. 1), as it allowed the telephone squad strengthening both the 3rd place in the individual overall by Alejandro Valverde and the teams’ leadership by the Blues. With no less than four riders -Quintana, Intxausti, Moreno and Castroviejo- protecting the Spanish rider until the foot of the last ascent, Valverde saved aloingside the earlier two a big selection caused by huge pace from STB and tackled the final 6km from Pajares fully into the fight for the GC.
Dropped by a first attempt from Contador (STB), Valverde found again help from an inspired Quintana, who drove him back into the group commanded by red jersey Rodríguez (KAT) and even tried his way solo with a move with 2k that was countered by Contador and Rodríguez. The Colombian ultimately claimed 6th behind Cataldo (OPQ) and De Gendt (VCD), the day’s two escapees; Rodríguez and Contador, third and fourth respectively; and Valverde (5th), reinforcing his gap on the third podium place -almost three minutes over Brit Chris Froome (SKY)- to enjoy a well-deserved second rest day in Cantabria. Movistar Team is now 12.22 ahead in the squads’ classification with five stages to go: the summit finishes of Fuente Dé (Wednesday) and Bola del Mundo (Saturday, before the triumphant march across Madrid) and the easier ones to Valladolid and La Lastrilla (Thursday and Friday).
QUOTES Alejandro Valverde: “The day’s overview is really good, as well for myself as for the squad. Our expectations are fulfiled as we tried to take another step forward to chase the individual podium and strengthen our lead in the teams’ overall. The podium place is a bit closer now, though there’s still a long way to go, plus we took an important leap in the collective classification. When Alberto and Purito started to attack each other, I preferred not to follow their games, because they jumped so hard to stop afterwards. I chose to stay on my own pace because I was reaching them out all the time, and the important thing was opening gap against Froome. Nairo’s work was phenomental, just like yesterday. The goal now is keeping this podium place. Fighting for another win is going to be difficult. We already have three and we had accomplished our goals, but if we make the individual podium and win the team’s one, this Vuelta will be sensational for us.”