Vuelta a España (st. 20)
Alejandro Valverde bravely conserves 2nd place at Bola del Mundo, Movistar Team leads comfortably for collective title before tomorrow’s triumphant march in Madrid
After a three-week-long effort and a penultimate stage -170 kilometers between Palazuelos de Eresma and the HC climb Bola del Mundo, with four others climbs across the route- soaked by rain for most of the parcours, Movistar Team is now only one day from completing a 2012 Vuelta a España almost impossible to imagine at the depart in Pamplona. Alejandro Valverde has kept his second place in the general classification after a moving start, with a 20-man breakaway made by Juanjo Cobo that found resistance with an attack by Beñat Intxausti and Javi Moreno in the first ascent towards Navafría (Cat. 1), eventually chased down.
With Menchov (KAT), Porte (SKY) and De Weert (OPQ), the day’s first three finishers, leaving Cobo’s group in the first slopes of the Navacerrada climb, the work by Jonathan Castroviejo and Imanol Erviti to harden things up and the final relay by Moreno left room for a first move from Valverde with 6k from the finish, rapidly suffocated by Contador (STB) and Rodríguez (KAT). The Catalan rider left the duo in the final two kilometers over concrete at the Bola del Mundo, while Valverde, always on his own pace throughout the race, overtook Contador and lost only twenty seconds on ‘Purito’ to ensure a spot into the podium in Madrid. Onto it, and at the expense of the final 115k on Sunday between Cercedilla and the city circuit in Madrid, will be the full Movistar Team roster, who kept their collective lead with no major troubles and also retained Beñat Intxausti’s GC 10th.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was an extremely hard stage, not only by the route and the speed but also due to the weather conditions. At the descent of the first climb I went through a really bad moment because it was so cold and rainy. The team worked sensationally, protecting me all the time, bringing me some food, weather clothes… I got to recover and the weather also improved. At the Navacerrada climb I knew I had to try it because you never know how everything will go around, but there was a strong head wind and it was silly to keep on insisting because Purito also had a teammate. I didn’t know the Bola del Mundo, but I had checked it through video and knew I had to go on my own pace. When Purito attacked, I kept my rhythm. At the final kilometer I went to catch Alberto and avoid Purito taking the second place from me. I never saw it lost because, even though I wasn’t so strong, I knew I had a good shot for the final meters. I’m really happy with my second place, though taking the time lost at the stage 4 crash off my account, I’d be just twenty seconds behind Contador, but you mustn’t think about it for so long because my Vuelta overview is really good.”