A battle that won’t decide the war
09 July 2014

Tour de France (st. 5)

Alejandro Valverde now in 10th overall -2'11" behind Nibali (AST)- after Tour cobbles, fighting alongside a great Movistar Team after a crash prior to first secteur pavé, as big favourite Froome (SKY) abandons

PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery

One of the hardest and most thrilling stages of the Tour de France in recent years has witnessed the win by Lars Boom (BEL) in Arenberg, after 152km under soaking rain and with seven cobbled sections -13 kilometers in total- traditional in the route of Paris-Roubaix. Endless crashes throughout the day also affected the Movistar Team, whose leader Alejandro Valverde had to race off-balance following a chute with 69km remaining.

Helped out immediately by José Joaquín Rojas, who gave him his bike -with which he completed the stage-, then accompanied by all his eight team-mates, the Spaniard bridged to the group of race leader Vincenzo Nibali (AST) before the section of Pont-Thibault -the second of the stage-, but the strong pace and the impossibility to gain places into the group broke it into pieces. Valverde fought restless for the next 40km, firstly alone behind Contador (TCS) and later along with some team-mates -with a special mention to a notable Rojas, later held off by a crash with no consequences- and the Tinkoff-Saxo team, trying to make the gap not to increased over the two minutes it reached in view of the final three secteurs pavé.

Eventually, the drain stropped: with Nibali at 18″ after Boom, the Movistar Team’s leader stopped the clock 2’27” after the Dutchman and 2’09” behind the Italian. Combined with Contador’s faint -he came 25″ after the Murcia-based rider-, keeps Alejandro into the overall top ten (10th), 2’11” in arrears of Nibali after a day where the 2013 winner Chris Froome (SKY) withdrew following two consecutive crashes. With all mountains ahead, the Blues will now enjoy two flat stages before the Vosges start on Saturday; the first one on Thursday will link Arras and Reims over 194km.

REACTION | Alejandro Valverde: “After all bad luck that we had, we could get through the day well. When I crashed I was perfectly positioned, within the first ten of the bunch, but some rider hit me from the left side, broke my gearing and made me hit the tarmac – it was quite a blow. I spent some seconds on the ground hurting, but Rojas came fast to give me his bike and all the team was sensational, always by my side. I had to do the final 60 kilometers, with all cobblestones on the route, with a seatpost 2.5cm smaller than mine, but it was really impossible to switch bikes before the finish, because it was ‘full gas.’

“We must stay happy, because even though we lost quite a bit of time against Nibali, we didn’t concede much to others, and even won some seconds to riders like Alberto. It’s obvious that Nibali is proving to be strong, as well as Fuglsang and all his team, but this has just started and there’s all to play for in this Tour. Anything can happen. On the other hand, I wasn’t aware of what happened to Froome. I did see Zandio crashed, but not him. I was so focused on my racing that I couldn’t realize about anything happening around. I want to thank the team again because they were brilliant today. Before the crash, we were in perfect position, and they took their hearts out for me afterwards. I don’t have any bruises, but his my knee, hip and head, and even though it doesn’t seem like anything important, we will see how my body responds tomorrow.”