Vuelta a Andalucía (final stage)
Spaniard claims third consecutive Vuelta a Andalucía, equals best season start – Movistar Team victory tally up to 7, biggest account in four years with Blue jersey
The expected script was played to perfection by Alejandro Valverde in the final day of the 2014 Vuelta a Andalucía. The Murcian has made history in the Ruta del Sol by becoming the first-ever rider to take three overall victories in southern Spain, and claiming them consecutively. The Movistar leader and his team-mates had no troubles during a hilly, 160km stage from Ubrique and Fuengirola. That was the day’s overview even though the opening three rated climbs saw an eight-man break going away with the presence Amets Txurruka (CJR), less than three minutes adrift in the GC.
The incalculable work by the telephone squad, which never let the attempt go away more than reasonable, was supported by several squads as Tom Dumoulin (GIA) tried to go solo from the lead group with about 20km remaining. Several attacks, including José Herrada, caused the Dutchman being caught into the fast, final descent. Moreno Hofland (BEL) took the bunch sprint as Valverde celebrated a success that increased the Blues’ 2014 victory account to seven, the best figure in four years in Movistar colours.
The outstanding team result was complete with the 4th place by a tenacious, wilful Ion Izagirre. Valverde, 77 wins as pro rider, adds the Points classification to his GC conquest for the best season-start numbers in his career, equalling the four triumphs -one win in Mallorca, two stages and overall in Andalusia- he claimed in an ever-consistent 2013.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “It was indeed a hard stage, but it went a bit more calm than we expected. We were planning to face a harder opposition, especially in the finale, but seeing how we all in the team as well as myself were doing, they might have though twice, I guess. The week has been impossible to beat for me – simply brilliant. Three stages, the overall, and especially how I felt on the bike, myself and all my team-mates. The work by them and their focus on digging deep to reach our goals are amazing. They were all where they were needed, in every single moment. I’m proud to have conquered that record of victories here, three in a row. I looked at the palmarès the other day and I saw I already was 3rd in 2003. Ten years are gone since then and we’re still here, willing to fight and suffer. Confidence and calmness are needed to be able to do that, and the work I did during the winter paid off. I ended the last season really strong and I’m starting this one in the same way. My next goals? Next week, Almería and Murcia, then in Italy: Strade Bianche, Roma Maxima, GP Nobili and Milano-Sanremo. I want to make a special dedicatory in this victory, because there’s another baby on the way for my family, the fourh one. Let’s hope he or she is healthy – actually I hope it’s a girl at last! It’s true that the top guns are getting used to win early in the season – this is not as it used to be anymore, we all want to find sensations early. It’s a matter of getting to the season goals in good condition, but not ruling out chances in other important races – you can’t leave it all to the Giro or the Tour.”