4th place for the Movistar Team leader, putting the Sky train into pressure at the Dauphiné's first mountain-top finish in Valmorel
After limiting losses yesterday at the fast, flat individual time trial of the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné, Alejandro Valverde came today into his favourite terrain with the courage and protagonism he’s always had. The Spaniard founght until the very end against some of the race’s big favourites in the first mountain test of the French event, a 139-km trek starting at Gresy-sur-Aix and finishing atop the ski resort of Valmorel (HC).
Always accompanied by a solid Movistar Team, with Imanol Erviti making part of a strong, 15-man break that reached the foot of the climb with more than two minutes of advantage, the telephone squad’s leader continued the work from Castroviejo, Herrada and Capecchi and launched himself on the attack twice: firstly with 7k to go, helped by Erviti as the Navarrese let the escape go to assist him, and then solo, one kilometer after.
Valverde’s move was caught with 3k remaining after reaching 20 seconds of advantage, the attacks of Contador (TST) and Froome (SKY) -the latter claiming the stage win and the yellow jersey- leaving the Spaniard in 4th, just 10 seconds behind. Friday will bring another relatively calm stage, with 143km from La Lechère to Grenoble and four small climbs halfway through the route.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I knew it was perhaps a bit too early to go alone, but the race situation, with Imanol ahead, was good for me to give it a try. I went on my own pace to open a gap, but always saving some energy because the climb wasn’t super hard and you could almost see it entirely, so it was easy to put your eyes on the rivals and pursuit. The important thing is that I had good legs and felt good.
“The ITT on Wednesday didn’t suit me well at all. When I feel strong in the mountains, I always try to attack and offer some spectacle, and I did agian today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow and try to be up-front again in the two mountain stages remaining. The preparations for the Tour are going well and that makes me gain confidence. It’s obvious that Froome is a bit ahead of everyone else, especially in the ITT; in the mountains, we all are more balanced against each other.”