Tour de France (st. 18)
Valverde, Movistar Team show courage down the Tourmalet, concede provisional podium place on Hautacam slopes; Pinot, Péraud and Spaniard within 15″ into Saturday’s decisive TT
PICTURES | 2014 Tour de France gallery
The aim of reaching a podium place at the end of the 2014 Tour de France which Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team set on themselves since the very start in Yorkshire will come down to one last race. A 54km individual time trial between Bergerac and Périgueux on Saturday will decide the final outcome after yet another demanding trek across the Pyrenees, over 145km from Pau to Hautacam, where the telephone squad again gave it all with courage.
As Ion Izagirre and Jesús Herrada made part of the 20-man breakaway which led all the way up to the Col du Tourmalet (HC), the opening section of the descent served as launchpad for Valverde, who went solo and found support in his two team-mates. After the three were able get almost thirty seconds of advantage, the strong pace by BMC behind got the Spaniard back into a group which, apart from the two previous escapees, featured three other Blues: Gadret, Visconti and Erviti. A strong attack by Nibali (AST) on the foot of the Hautacam climb made the Frenchman take responsibility into the favourites’ group, until a move by Pinot (FDJ) with 6km to made Valverde fall back.
Alejandro started an unsuccessful, yet valiant pursuit, always alone, against Pinot, Péraud (ALM) and Van Garderen (BMC), with whom he would lose almost 50″ at the finish to drop back to fourth overall, just two seconds behind Péraud (3rd) and 15″ off Pinot’s (2nd) pace. The Movistar Team, which will continue the race with eight riders after José Joaquín Rojas was taken out -due to “sheltering for too long”, as reported by letour.fr; “holding on to another motor vehicle”, in the official jury communication hours later-, will have a day to recover their energy and spirits -stage 19, over 208km between Maubourget and Bergerac- before the big challenge, just 24h from the Champs-Élysees.
REACTION | Alejandro Valverde: “At the Tourmalet I welt well, and I did also on this final climb, though the wear and tear of this race takes you to the limit, as it does with pretty much everyone. It has been a couple of days strange for me, like I was feeling a bit ill, so I had to struggle and give everything I had. I managed to keep the distance with my main rivals pretty well in the second part of the climb and I’m ‘happy’, with ditto marks, with the result and the pace I kept. We got through the day decently and we will try to keep fighting. Right now I feel tired, but Saturday’s is a time trial where I just hope I find good legs – if that’s the case, every gap can be made up. I’m not really far – with those gaps, everything is possible, and this might add even some excitement to the race. Just like I lost time today, I could gain it on Saturday – or rather the opposite. The team did everything they could, I gave what I had and we must stay happy.”