Vuelta a España (st. 19)
Spaniard 2nd, back on the verge of glory at La Lastrilla as he improves his GC situation on Contador (STB) and Rodríguez (KAT) in the eve of the Bola del Mundo
No less than eight stage podiums has earned Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) into a 2012 Vuelta a España that saved another surprised for the peloton in the day prior to the big showdown. The 183-kilometer stage 19 between Peñafiel and La Lastrilla, really calm in the first half, got harder with a twisty finale near Segovia where Movistar Team took advantage again thanks to the work load from Jonathan Castroviejo and Imanol Erviti, who set the Spaniard in perfect situation before the final slopes, where Pablo Lastras controlled the finish for his team leader.
Valverde searched for position into a disorganized sprint where he was only few meters short to overcome a long attack from Belgian Philippe Gilbert (BMC). The second place from the Murcian at the finish, as well as the six bonus seconds in the day’s final intermediate sprint and the three conceeded by the jury with time gaps at the finish, leave him 1.35 behind Contador (STB) and 46 seconds over Rodríguez (KAT) before the Spanish grandtour’s apotheose on Saturday: 170 kilometers starting at Palazuelos de Eresma and including five categorized climbs: Navafría (Cat. 1), Canencia (Cat. 2), Morcuera (Cat. 1), Cotos (Cat. 1) and the long-awaited Bola del Mundo, HC ascent of 11.4 kilometers on an 8.6% average gradient and slopes up to 23%.
Alejandro Valverde: “We knew that the final slope was good to give it a try for the victory and it was a shame that Gilbert got before us, but he went on a long attack, he did well and proved to be the strongest. I could snatch bonus seconds at both the intermediate sprint and at the finish and that keeps me more calm before tomorrow. It will be a hard stage, but it’s the final battle in this race. Everything might stay as it is now, the podium could change in all positions… it can be a really crazy day. Still, if nothing wrong happens, the podium is assured for the three of us. With Albert in the lead, it’s hard to think about improving this 2nd place. It’s possible, but really, really hard. Though, things are going really well now and I’m satisfied with our results to date.”