Vuelta a España (st. 8)
König (TNE) wins atop the Alto de Peñas Blancas amid small gaps within GC favourites; Movistar Team leader now in 7th overall, half a minute down on Roche (TST)
Alejandro Valverde is still into top places of the 2013 Vuelta a España after the conditiones within the main contenders of the race were measured almost equal into the first mountain-top finish in Andalusia: the Cat-1 Peñas Blancas (16km at 6.6%) in Estepona, after 158 kilometers from Jerez de la Frontera. The Murcian was always helped at the front by a solid Movistar Team, which sent Beñat Intxausti into the day’s early, thirteen-man break leading the way until the foot of the climb. Despite not finding his best legs and losing contact with the escapees in the first kilometers of the climb, the Basque’s move allowed the telephone squad riding calm and protect Valverde with Lastras, Erviti and Gutiérrez prior to the climb, with José Herrada and an active Eros Capecchi putting his force at service into the ascent.
A late move from Czech Leopold König (TNE) awarded him the victory with a short margin over Moreno (KAT) and an elite group including Pinot (FDJ), Basso (CAN), De Clercq (LTB), Antón (EUS) and Roche (TST), new race leader over Nibali (AST) as the Italian lost ten seconds with Valverde, who sprinted to the line for 8th. Alejandro is now in 7th overall -31 seconds adrift- as the GC stays compressed in one minute for its first ten places, and will surely keep mixing up until Monday, when the climbs of Monachil and Haza Llana should create more significant gaps. Before that, another hilltop finish will come tomorrow at Valdepeñas de Jaén, with slopes up to 30% after 163km from Antequera, including the Alto de los Frailes (Cat-3) just 16k from the end.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I would have liked to contest the stage win, but they were strong at the front and timed their attack perfectly, while we were looking at each other. I tried to counter with 400m remaining, but it was impossible to chase them down. We just have to congratulate König and stay happy with this result, because we were able to put some seconds on Nibali. It’s true that we three, Nibali, Purito and myself, are watching each other – Joaquim couldn’t attack because he had Dani at the front. We’ll see what happens on Monday, with a really hard stage that should offer more chances. I’m still feeling strong. I don’t know if Astana wanted to give up on the race leadership or not, but it’s true that having the red jersey creates more tension, and also some extra work out of the race with the podium ceremony, the antidoping control…”