Vuelta a España (st. 7)
Great response from Movistar Team helps Valverde into difficult finish in Mairena del Aljarafe -with Stybar (OPQ) victorious-, prelude of three hard Andalusian finishes in the Vuelta
The longest stage to date in the 2013 Vuelta a España -205km from Almendralejo to Mairena del Aljarafe near Sevilla- caused lots of minor setbacks into a finale full of technical sections, plus a surprise into the sprint, frustrated by Gilbert (BMC) and eventual winner Stybar (OPQ) after the duo jumped away with less than 10k remaining and profited from disorganization into the bunch. Movistar Team came to the front of the group in order to keep Alejandro Valverde well protected; the Spaniard completed the first week of racing without a stratch, sitting firmly in 5th overall behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali (AST).
The trio of Andalusian mountain finishes will start on Saturday with the Cat-1 Alto de Peñas Blancas (14.5km, 6.6% average) after 166 kilometers from Jerez de la Frontera to the climb surrounding Estepona. After that, explosive riders will have a shot at their chances in Valdepeñas de Jaén (domingo), with the slopes of the Chaparral (30%) into the final kilometer, before the big stage of Haza Llana (HC), with Monachil (Cat-1) also on the riders’ way on Monday 2nd.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “It was a relatively easy stage before the finale – all the fight for the win and the dangerous circuit created much tension. We had to stay focused and that required much energy. Too dangerous? Maybe it was. I talked to a couple of team-mates and all of them complained about it. I’m sure there was some alternative to make it a bit less risky. A sprint finish always requires attention, but this was a bit too much.
“Now it’s time for the three consecutive mountain-top finishes, three important days – I don’t know the Peñas Blancas climb from tomorrow, but I’ve been told about it. The first part has some hard slopes and the final 6 or 7 kilometers are at about 7%. We’ll see how we feel, because everything is going alright until now and I’m really willing to do well. There could be some time gaps at Valdepeñas de Jaén Sunday, of course, but they should be minimal. It will be important to get into good position coming into the final slope. Monday’s stage is one I know really well and is hard, both Monachil and Haza Llana climbs. It will be the third consecutive mountain-top finish and legs will hurt. I hope to get well to all three because I’m feeling strong and the team is supporting me to perfection.”