Spaniard continues impressive campaign on home soil -five wins, eight already for the Movistar Team- with an early attack into Collado Bermejo downhill plus an impressive final kick in the Castillo de Lorca
It’s being an unstoppable start of the 2014 season for Alejandro Valverde. The Movistar Team’s leader has conquered the Castillo de Lorca, finish of the 34th Vuelta a Murcia, after yet another excellent performance from his team-mates on Saturday. It was Enrique Sanz in charge of protecting the Blues’ chances into the early, seven-man break of the day, held tight by the telephone squad -never let grow more than four minutes’ advantage- after Dayer Quintana suffered a crash after 17km which forced him to abandon, yet with no serious physical consequences -just abrasions in his right knee and hip-.
Movistar Team brought the break back and led the bunch on full steam through the Alto de Espuña (Cat-1), but in the flat prior to the Collado Bermejo (Cat-1), Jérôme Coppel (COF) jumped away and opened a gap which got close to half a minute over the crest. It was then, with 50k remaining, when Valverde jumped into the downhill and rode quickly to the Frenchman’s rear wheel, later opening more than one minute’s gap. However, the sidewinds, the work by CCC Polsat into the main pack and the lack of cooperation from his fellow escapee ruined that initial chance.
Caught with 15k remaining, Valverde was protected by his team-mates en route to the Fortaleza del Sol, where he would end up responding to an attack by Tiago Machado (TNE) and finishing with his classic, explosive touch for a record 4th win -three as stagerace (’04, ’07, ’08), today’s as only one-day conquest- in the Vuelta a Murcia, his fifth success of the season, Movistar Team’s eighth in 2014 and the 78th in Bala’s huge pro palmarès. Behind, José Joaquín Rojas proved full recovery from his injury -as shown in Algarve- to complete the Blue success in 5th spot.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I couldn’t race it some years, and I came close to winning last season – I really wanted to get a victory at home. I had the confidence from last week’s racing in Andalucía, but there were some team-mates who could do well, too – we had to wait and value our chances when we were on the road. We still wanted to approach the climbs fast to make a selection into the group, and we succeeded. I chose to jump after Coppel to release some pressure off my team-mates’ shoulders. Even though we got more than one minute, I knew it was hard for the two of us to reach the finish, because we could open a gap when the wind blew on our tail, but once we took the turn in Totana, the group would catch us – that’s how it happened, and that’s why I preferred to save energy in the finale, making the others behind spend energy while our guys could sit on their wheels. When we saw how everyone was going, we decided to play my card again. Machado attacked really strong, and even though Nairo went for him in the beginning, he eventually went solo. He was making a serious gap and I decided to make a long attack. When I was reaching him, I took some breath to accelerate again – and it turned out well. I dedicate this victory to all my family, who were present here, and to the Murcian fans, who support me all year and were impressive on the roads today. Tomorrow in Almería, it will be time to work hard and keep this chance alive, but this time with another team-mate.“
Pictures (c): Joaquín Mateo