Alejandro Valverde: Battle in the mountains
15 April 2014

Movistar Team: The Power of Champions (II) / País Vasco

Reflections on the Blue leader's performance in País Vasco, particularly the gruelling stage five to Markina-Xemein

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In the last episode of ‘Movistar Team: The Power of Champions’, we brought you Juanjo Lobato’s magnificent 4th place at Milano-Sanremo. Today we are looking in detail at a great battle in the mountains between our team leader Alejandro Valverde and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador at the Vuelta al País Vasco. 

Alejandro Valverde: Battle in the Mountains

Stage 5 led the riders from Eibar to Markina-Xemein over 160.2km and included 5 classified climbs – 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 1st and 2nd category. The profile was relentless and the riders had almost 3000m of ascent to cover. On such a ride ambitious amateurs would be proud to hold an average of 30 kph. When you let the best teams in the world loose on this terrain the pace is relentless: the finishing time was 3h56m56s for an average of over 40kph.

The early part of the stage – deceptively hard
The break of the day of 15 riders included our own Ruben Plaza and went early. In the peloton behind, first Tinkoff and then the Movistar Team boys made the pace to ensure that the gap never grew too much.

Looking at Alejandro’s data we see that the day starts out quite hard: in the first 30kms the peloton went up two shorter climbs already at a fast pace. As a result we see Alejandro’s 5 minute power average peak over 400 watts right in the beginning. After these two climbs and before the last 4 climbs of the day there were no categorized difficulties. But the racing was still hard and fast, and it’s something that is sometimes difficult to see on TV: the short little climbs meant constant pushes by the riders and we see Alejandro’s 5min power cross the 400 watts once again. 

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Four climbs – one chance to apply pressure
The tactic was to put Tinkoff under pressure and to attempt to crack Alberto on the final climb. To rid him of his teammates the pace was kept high on the three climbs before the final one. As a result the peloton shrunk ever further as teammate after teammate sacrificed himself for the mission. The third last climb was particularly hard, with Alejandro reaching up to 500 watt over one minute and another strong peak towards the top of the climb.  

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On the last climb it was show time: After a very hard 11 minutes at 425 watts normalized Alejandro launches a violent attack before the top of the climb, reaching almost 800 watts over 30 seconds. Only Alberto was able to respond and they attacked the descent together. Unfortunately the finish was too far and the remainders of the lead group caught up with the leaders on the downhill. In the final bunch sprint Alejandro only had to succumb to Ben Swift after peaking at over 1050 watts in the final meters.

Another great day of racing by the Movistar Team boys and very strong performance by Alejandro.

Stay tuned as we bring you more in-depth race analysis from our riders in the coming months.