Vuelta a Andalucia (st. 1)
Valverde takes 2nd in Ubrique, keeps red jersey after great work from the entire Movistar Team -1st overall-, with Moreno and Quintana (new KOM) into the 20-rider elite group
Movistar Team saved with solvency the first of three demanding road stages on their way to back-to-back victories in the Vuelta a Andalucía, as Alejandro Valverde keeps the 2013 Ruta del Sol’s red jersey in his shoulders. A difficult 164km trek from San Fernando to Ubrique, with the tough Puerto de Las Palomas (Cat. 1) in the run to the finish, was the first test for the telephone squad, controlling the day’s breakaway with Imanol Erviti and Iván Gutiérrez for over four hours before José Joaquín Rojas and Rubén Plaza led the bunch in the first slopes of the day’s most important climb.
During the Las Palomas climb, Nairo Quintana made the decisive selection and jumped together with Navarro (COF) from the 20-rider group that ended up fighting for victory in Ubrique. The Colombian did not achieve his goal of contesting the victory in his debut race of 2013, but endorsed into the green KOM jersey before being reeled back by the chasers. Frenchman Jonathan Hivert (SOJ) overtook Valverde as the Spaniard stays in red -also in charge, but not materially, of the blue points jersey-. With two days to go, the rider from Murcia is still on top of the standings -with 20 iders in one minute- as Quintana (7th) and local Javi Moreno (12th) climb after making the front group for Movistar Team, also first at the collective rankings.
The third, penultimate stage of the Andalusian race will be another difficult one: 194km between Trebujena and Montilla, including three Cat. 3 climbs – two of them into the final 15k.
REACTION – Alejandro Valverde: “We’ve got to be satisfied because, even though we couldn’t win the stage, we’re still in the lead, and after all the work from the team that is the important thing. We set the pace all day with Imanol and Iván and then into the climb with Rojas and Plaza before Nairo splitted things up. At the final descent, Astana had a majority of riders and took command before the sprint. I didn’t know the final slope, and though I had good legs, Hivert was smart and timed his attack perfectly. I hesitated for a moment and after that, it was impossible to chase him down – I can only congratulate him for the win, he deserved it. Only two days left, but there are so many riders in such a short margin. Tuesday’s stage is hard, but Wednesday’s is pretty much infamous. I feel strong, the team does too – but everything can happen until the end.”