Ion takes final attack to fruition into final lap of Ponferrada Worlds course; Alejandro excels over final climb to make it one-two for Movistar Team in the main race of the Nationals
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Ion Izagirre and Alejandro Valverde joined again on the podium of Ponferrada to celebrate one of the most crafted, imposing victories by the Movistar Team in the 2014 season. The two riders from the telephone squad celebrated their one-two in the capital of the Bierzo region in northern León, a result that certifies the telephone squad’s prominent position -four ‘rojigualda’ jerseys in as many years with its curent sponsor- on the Spanish road road Championships, held over 11 laps (200km) of the circuit that will hold the Worlds in late September.
The main race of the Nationals was a monologue by the Blues: the likes of Plaza, Gutiérrez, Antón, Sanz, Ventoso, Gorka Izagirre or Castroviejo kept always under control a long, 10-man breakaway which never reached more than three-and-a-half minutes’ advantage. Splitted up by the hardness of the circuit and pressure increased by the Movistar Team, which shrunk the peloton to about fourty riders with two laps two go, attacks followed one by one: firstly Valverde, into the third-to-last ascent; then, Erviti, who reached a gap of almost 20″ into the last lap; and finally, after the Navarran was caught, Ion Izagirre, who was only reached down by a splendid Valverde into the last climb, the duo taking turns in absolute harmony to reach the finish together.
It’s Izagirre’s 3rd victory as pro -after consecutive success in the Vuelta a Asturias and the Giro d’Italia, back in 2012- and the 22nd in the 2014 season for the Movistar Team -Adriano Malori conquered the Italian time trial Championship just minutes later-, the Blues coming into the most prestigious stagerace of the calendar, the Tour de France -starting in Leeds on Saturday- with at least three national titles on their account.
Ion Izagirre: “We had a very strong block and we controlled the race well, though you can never relax, before it’s not easy at all to win. Things turned out well in the finale and Alejandro and myself could take another turn on the podium after our one-two in the TT. With one lap and a half to go, Erviti tried it solo, but Euskadi reacted from the pack and they caught him – that’s when I decided to attack. With around 6km to go, Alejandro attacked from behind, and to be honest, he gave me wings, because I was starting to struggle a lot.
“Eventually, this circuit has come to be really hard. It seems comfortable into the opening laps, but when you start to get closer to the end, the transit through the city being so fast and making the bunch string out – the circuit doesn’t offer you many possibilities to recover, have some food, drink… That makes some impact. The race will be even harder in the Worlds – the longer distance will make people suffer much. Of course I’d like to be at the Worlds, but I don’t know if I’ll be part of the team; it’s not a choice I can do by myself. I’m really happy with my season – I only lacked a victory and I got it today. I wanted to dedicate one to some of the people who left us way before than they should, from a lot of time ago – Rufino Murguía, Víctor Cabedo and Urtzi Gurrutxaga – this is for them.”
Alejandro Valverde: “I think I attacked at the right place. Into the final lap, I jumped away from a lower point of the climb to test myself, and it became clear to me that the best place to give it a try was with 50 or 100 meters before the top of the ascent. I saw Ion was really close and chose to attack, catch him and take some turns together to the finish, just like we did. It’s a parcours where you can never leave the first 30 positions of the bunch, because, except for the first climb, the other roads are covered in a long line. It’s really fast, dangerous… We usually see these Worlds circuits getting harder from the 200km mark and it was demanding already before that, so it will be more difficult in September. Even more with rain…”