Spaniard supported by notable Movistar Team -especially Intxausti, Gadret-, struggles in the slopes of La Mauselaine, but still gets into 5th overall after losing just 19" to Contador
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
In another day of soaking rain, even through the fog of the Vosges tackled for the first time in this year’s race, Alejandro Valverde keeps climbing up the ladder in the 2014 Tour de France after a day which wasn’t exempt of suffering for the Spanish rider. The Movistar Team’s leader for the Grande Boucle struggled with weather conditions in a strange stage for all riders -130km of flat, from Tomblaine to the foot of the Croix des Moinats (Cat-2), followed by the steep Grosse Pierre (Cat-3) and the final ‘wall’ of La Mauselaine in Gérardmer (Cat-3)-, but saved the day, just 19″ off the pace of Alberto Contador (TCS), first of the favourites and 2nd behind Blel Kadri (ALM), in the opening mountain stage.
Valverde’s support from his team-mates was total, from start to finish. The covering work by the telephone squad until the first slopes was continued in the mountains by John Gadret and Beñat Intxausti, who led the Murcian through the descent before the final 1,800 meters -with slopes always over 10%- and even set a bigger pace with the Basque to string out the selected group of favourites. The attack by Contador, after long-standing pressure from his Tinkoff squad in the prior climbs, forced Nibali (AST) to respond, while Valverde bounced back from initial struggling to take 7th for the day and jump into fifth overall, 2’27” in arrears of the yellow jersey and 29″ behind the virtual GC podium place of Australian Richie Porte (SKY).
Sunday will bring the ‘ballons’, the characteristic, gentle climbs of the Vosges, in a long chain: Schlucht (Cat-2), Wettstein (Cat-3), Cinq Châteaux (Cat-3), Gueberschwihr (Cat-2), Le Markstein (Cat-1) and Le Grand Ballon (Cat-1), the latter one just 32km from Mulhouse finish, a total 170 kilometers in the day’s programme.