Vuelta a Andalucía (st. 1)
Valverde claims back-to-back victories in Jaén, keeps control in Vuelta a Andalucía after outstanding work from the whole Movistar Team in most demanding stage, prelude of another hilltop finish in Cabra
Alejandro Valverde’s love story with Jaén and the Vuelta a Andalucía had yet another chapter today on the slopes of the Castillo de Santa Catalina, the finish of the 60th Ruta del Sol’s hardest stage over 187 kilometers and six rated climbs, no rest allowed from the very start in Vélez Málaga. The Movistar Team’s leader, already winner in the province with two stages of the Vuelta a España -finishing atop La Pandera (2003) and in the capital (2008)-, took the splendid work by his team-mates all day to fruition at today’s arrivée.
Erviti and Capecchi were the first two men in charge of keeping controlled an 11-man attempt that rode through the opening ascents up-front; after that, with about thirty kilometers from the end, Plaza picked up the pace and José Herrada and Javi Moreno offered their force to catch every single attack aganist the Blue train. Finally, Ion Izagirre moved up to the small front group, with about ten riders resisting the pace, to keep Valverde calm and confident so the Murcian could prove his impressive legs in a twisty, steep final section next to the castle.
Valverde is now 19 seconds ahead of Richie Porte (SKY), with Luis León Sánchez (CJR) in third at 21″ and team-mate Ion over half a minute behind his fellow countryman in the eve of the second and last mountain-top finish of this year’s Andalusian stagerace: a long (197km), one-climb day finishing atop the Santuario de la Virgen de la Sierra de Cabra (Cat-1.)
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really hard day, always up and down – we climbed 4,000 meters in just 185 kilometers, which considering which time of the year we’re in, it’s quite brutal. We didn’t want to let such a big break go away, but when they attacked we were starting the climbing, and going after them would have meant to increased the speed too much for that point of the race. To be honest, Erviti and Capecchi impressed me, they made an amazing work pushing almost all stage. Same goes for the rest of my team-mates in the finale: Plaza, Herrada and Javi in the last climb. Chapeau for all of them. In the uphill finish, Ion’s (Izagirre) work was crucial because, when Porte sent Thomas ahead, he bridged the gap and later led me out for the sprint – a genius. I wasn’t having super legs at that point, because we were all dead tired after such an effort, but they were good indeed. It seems like tomorrow’s will be the Queen stage, but today’s seemed to me even harder. The thing is, today’s wear and tear will pay off, and the climb is longer, so gaps might be made there. It will be hard to stay calm as we’re holding the lead, but we’re hopeful we can work a little less than today.”