Vuelta al País Vasco (st. 1)
Unstoppable Contador (TCS) only able to match Spaniard’s attack in Gaintza climb during opening stage in País Vasco; great work by Movistar team-mates
He came into his first WorldTour stagerace in 2014 with great ambition after seven victories made him the most winning rider in the pro scene so far, and Alejandro Valverde confirmed his excellent form in Ordizia today. The Movistar Team leader took 2nd on stage one of the Vuelta al País Vasco, a traditional, mountainous route in the Basque Country with eight rated climbs in just 153 kilometers.
The telephone squad took command into the main field from the very start: controlling the four-man early breakaway, then pushing hard after they were caught with 25k to go. The bunch, strung out through Orendain (Cat-2), was made of only 40 riders on the foot of the Alto de Gaintza (Cat-2), over 2k with slopes up to a gruelling 27%. Herrada, Moreno and Ion Izagirre were followed by Beñat Intxausti, the man to lead Valverde out on his attack halfway through the climb. He was only followed by who would go on to win the stage, Alberto Contador (TCS).
The attack by Valverde’s fellow countryman on the final slopes opened a handful of meters which Alejandro contained well into the descent, leaving the first pursuit group sufficiently behind. The 14-second gap across the finish keeps things close for the Blues’ GC man, who will tackle an insidious stage two tomorrow en route to Urdax (156km), with no rated climbs in the finale yet with two significant slopes -San Ignacio and Zugarramurdi- in the run-in to the finish.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “It was a day to take chances, because the team worked so much all day and I had good legs. I jumped away, felt strong, and Alberto was the only one who could folow me. Initially I felt confident, because I was seeing he wasn’t doing so well, but he attacked in the end of the climb and it was kind of unexpected for me. There was a strong headwind and I couldn’t close the gap. I wasn’t thinking he would open such a big gap, but these 15 seconds will count – they’re always important in one-week stageraces, where everything is down to a few of them. We gave it all for the win, but we must remain happy with 2nd. Contador was better than us – we can just congratulate him and fight back tomorrow. Gaps are still small and there are many hard days ahead, starting with tomorrow.”