Vuelta a España (st. 4)
Spaniard from Movistar Team shakes the field into final 25km, forces favourites’ teams to move up. Nairo Quintana stays 2nd overall; Alejandro still 3rd
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He couldn’t contest the stage win, but Alejandro Valverde showed again his class and quality on stage four of the Vuelta a España -164km from Mairena del Alcor and Córdoba-, a tough one as a result of extreme heat (almost 40ºC) and two climbs, San Jerónimo (Cat-2) and the Catorce por Ciento (Cat-3), into the last 60k of racing.
The Movistar Team led the way -with Herrada, Malori and Gorka Izagirre- together with Sky, Tinkoff and Orica to neutralize the day’s early breakaway and shrink the field to about seventy riders. With 25km from the finish, into a section of false flat, Valverde launched a strong acceleration to counter a prior move from Yates (OGE), Anacona (LAM) and Sicard (EUC), leaving the peloton behind. Despite the four insisted on their action as the bunch took much time to build a decent pursuit, the gap, barely half a minute, vanished into the flat after the most technical part of the descent. Alejandro was caught with less than 9km to go.
“I went ahead so the rest of our rivals could get a bit nervous and had to push behind, but I knew it was very difficult to get anywhere,” conceeded Valverde just after crossing the line. “I didn’t feel bad yesterday, just a bit sore after the crash, but as the blow cooled down I could see I had recovered well, and my legs did pretty fine today. We’ll see how we ride in the upcoming days – our tactics we keep it to ourselves, otherwise we will be giving clues to our rivals.”
Into the short field’s sprint, John Degenkolb (GIA) won convincingly while Herrada (15th), Valverde, Quintana -not into the initial results after a chip failure meant his bike was not registered-, Amador, Izagirre and Castroviejo made the front group, Moreno close behind. Wednesday will take the race back southwards, with a 180km parcours from Priego de Córdoba to Ronda including the Saltillo (Cat-3), 16k from the end.
Pile-up holds back Lobato, Gadret in Poitou-Charentes
Misfortune stroke Movistar Team’s top sprinter for the second time in 48 hours as Juanjo Lobato went down during stage one of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes -192km between Jarnac and La Ronde-, which Mark Cavendish (OPQ) conquered into a bunch kick. The Andalusian, as well as John Gadret, went down with 8k remaining and were out of the main field, Enrique Sanz as top Blue finisher in 13th. His blows, though numerous, are reported not serious, and stage two should offer Lobato a brandnew opportunity at the end of the 183km from Marans to Niort.