Vuelta (st. 5) / Poitou (st. 2)
Quintana, Valverde keep attention alongside Movistar Team into echelons en route to Ronda, stay in 2nd & 3rd overall before long slope of Cumbres Verdes. Sanz just short for victory in Poitou-Charentes
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Every single day in the 2014 Vuelta a España hides a dangerous situation to get over and it was the case on stage five, marked by crosswinds in a hectic finale for the 180km from Priego de Córdoba to Ronda. John Degenkolb (GIA) claimed a field sprint under scorching hot conditions after echelons created by Tinkoff-Saxo found the Movistar Team fully focused on protecting their leaders. The push by the Russian team, 40km from the end, left barely fourty riders into the first group, with six of the Blues -Quintana, Valverde, Amador, Castroviejo, Izagirre and Erviti- always in. More riders bridged before the top of the Alto del Satillo (3ª), a more consistent bunch of 70 coming across the line together.
The work by the Blues to keep Quintana and Valverde calm was successful as they stay 2nd and 3rd overall, 13″ and 20″ respectively behind Michael Matthews (OGE). The Aussie will have to fight tomorrow against the climbers in the first real mountain-top finish of this year’s Vuelta, Cumbres Verdes (Cat-1, 5km at 9%, over endless straights), in La Zubia near Granada. 167km form Thursday’s route, starting and Benalmádena and also climb the ‘puertos’ of Zafarraya (Cat-2) and Bemejales (Cat-3).
Alejandro Valverde: “We were paying attention at the front when we were leaving the town in case there were any splits, and they accelerated. It didn’t really surprise us: Tinkoff is a squad that always profits from chances like that, and that was the case. We also took some turns at the front and could happily complete the stage into the main group. All favourites are working hard not to lose any time, not only the two or three names you might think of. Tomorrow’s stage is the first mountain-top finish; not a long climb, but it is a demanding one. I haven’t raced on it as a pro, but I did climb it as an amateur in the Vuelta a Granada. We will try to keep attacking and make the fans enjoy, always as long as the team’s interest is not compromised. There will sometimes be a reward, sometimes not, but we must keep people paying attention to us in the remainder of the race.”
Nairo Quintana: “All my team-mates worked really well today, not only putting us at the front all stage and especially when there was more stress, but also bringing us all drinks we needed, which is really important in such stages. First mountain-top finish coming tomorrow – it’s my terrain. I’m getting into the racing pace slowly but steadily, though I think it might be a bit too soon for me to give it a crack. Let’s hope the temperature decreases a little tomorrow so we can feel better; it doesn’t really do well for any of us in the bunch, the body feels different, a bit down.”
Sanz 2nd behind unbeatable Cavendish
More focused in the last few years on working for his team-mates rather than exploiting his sprinting abilities, Enrique Sanz was very close to profiting from the chance given as top fastman of the Movistar Team on stage two of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes on Wednesday, 184km between Marans and Niort. The Spaniard came 2nd across the line behind Mark Cavendish (OPQ) and is now into the provisional GC podium, 14″ behind the Briton, before a decisive double sector on Thursday -a 111km flat road race in the morning, followed by a 24km individual time trial in the evening-. Dowsett, Herrada, Sütterlin, Lastras and Dayer Quintana are all 20″ adrift in the overall standings.