3rd place for Movistar Team leader behind Kwiatkowski (OPQ) and Sagan (CAN) after solid team labor plus notable efforts from Andrey Amador
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) became today the first Spaniard to take a podium place in the Strade Bianche, whose 8th edition turned into a top-class fight all the way through the 200km route -with ten sterrato sections of gravel over the hills in Tuscany- from San Gimignano to the Piazza del Campo in Siena. The Murcian claimed the day’s 3rd place after a race not exempt from incidents, neither for him -a puncture with 70k remaining forced him to make his way back to the main field- nor for his team-mates, who suffered several incidents in a demanding race for all riders and machines.
The selection through the demanding Monte Sante Marie left barely twenty riders up-front, with two members of the telephone squad: Valverde and Andrey Amador. The Costa Rican went for a surprise attack with five other riders, which opened a 20-second gap over the main favourites, but an impressive attack from Sagan (CAN), responded by eventual winner Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQ), brought them back plus served as launchpad for the duo, both Andrey and Alejandro unable to follow their wheels.
Valverde would finally jump away at Le Toffe, the last sterrato section, around ten kilometers from the finish, and after a short approach to the finish alongside Cunego (LAM), Kreuziger (TCS) and Cancellara (TFR), he attacked on the last uphill kick to claim third. Amador, just over five minutes behind, completed the Blues’ fine performance in their second race of the season in Italy, preceeding tomorrow’s Roma Maxima.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I already stated last year that this was a race I liked, and I confirmed that feeling today – it’s wonderful, but still really hard, almost five hours and a half on the bike, even harder this year due to the wind. It’s awful that I couldn’t have my best day with punctures into the gravel sections – they all happened in the worst moments, especially the last one, when the group was strung out and the speed was high. The team was sensational again – chapeau to them. I always had team-mates to help me out and get back into the contest. Lastras was the one to support me in the first two, letting me his wheels; then Ventoso in the last one. Despite that all, I felt really strong in the finale. When Sagan attack, I was into a small group ahead and we started climbing slower than the others, who rushed past from behind. That moment of hesitation is crucial so many times to not let them go. I followed Cancellara’s wheel and wasn’t really thinking they would open such a big gap; even though we tried to reach, it wasn’t possible anymore. I’m happy with the legs I had today, content with this performances. Tomorrow’s race, Roma Maxima, is completely different. I know the route, too, since I rode last year’s race. We’ll see how it unfolds, because there’s a long way from the last climb to the finish, and that opens up the competition a lot.”