Vuelta a España (st. 6)
Sensational Alejandro leads provisional GC 1-2 for Movistar Team in Vuelta a España, claiming stage win in La Zubia after working through the final climb for Nairo Quintana (5th across the finish)
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Movistar Team’s dream start in the 2014 Vuelta a España goes on. Alejandro Valverde offered in La Zubia, atop the race’s first Cat-1 climb of Cumbres Verdes -following 167km of rolling roads from Benalmádena-, an exhibition only at reach of the biggest names in the pro scene.
After working through the second part of the finishing ascent (4km with slopes over 10%) for his team-mate Nairo Quintana, the Spaniard was able to beat some of the world’s best specialists in the closing meters with a signature acceleration that took him back into the lead of the Spanish grandtour. The protection work by the whole Movistar Team, including Erviti, Malori, Castroviejo or Izagirre pushing at the front and looking after the two Blue references in Zafarraya (Cat-2), Bemejales (Cat-3) and the flat after the climbs, was followed by a turn from Andrey Amador, leading the two into good position for the ascent, where Alejandro split the group until it was nearly ten riders before the final kilometer.
The two accelerations by Rodríguez and the attack by Froome after the flamme rouge found excellent responde from Valverde, who jumped for the win -his 11th of the season, the 84th in his career, the 32nd for a Movistar Team which equals its account from 2013 and is just four away from 1998’s best tally with 36-. Behind, Quintana, still building up on his form, lost only 12″ to stay in 2nd overall, 15″ after Alejandro and ahead of all rivals for the GC. Friday will bring another slightly uphill finish in Alcaudete (169km), the peloton still far from the second real mountainous test in Valdelinares, on Sunday.
Alejandro Valverde: “This victory means a lot to me. Though it’s harder to feel great with these temperatures, my legs were really good today, I felt well all over the course and I was able to win. It was a climb that really suited me and we couldn’t miss such an opportunity had we got it – still, I think everyone saw clearly I was working for Nairo. There was a tailwind into the climb and it was hard for anyone into the main group to go away, they had to stay on our wheel. I was setting a strong pace to take some rivals out of contention, but saving an extra bit of energy in case anyone attacked, as it happened with both Purito and Froome. I never looked back: as well Nairo as the team car were telling me to keep the pace: ‘Only ten or twelve riders behind you.’
When Purito jumped away, I didn’t think about it for a second – I went after him. He’s someone we can’t let take a single meter. I still had strength to counter and go for the win, so, at the end of the day, we couldn’t do better: we took some rivals out of contention, though gaps weren’t really huge – we also took some bonus seconds and the result is fantastic for the whole team. For me, the main leader of the squad is still Nairo, though I don’t rule out my own chances. I keep really clear in my mind he’ll be doing better and better, and he showed today he’s up for the fight. Many mountains will come for him to do great. We get on really well with each other and I worked my heart out for him today. If I keep feeling well, I’ll try and go for some more stage wins, though I keep faith GC-wise. The important thing is that one of us Blues can win the race.”
Nairo Quintana: “I’m extremely happy for Alejandro. He’s a great rider. He did a great work for me in the finale and still was able to win the stage – that’s something not many riders can do. I’m still lacking some pace, you could see in the final kilometer I’m not still in my top condition, but I hope to keep progressing in the next stages. The important thing for us is to keep the win within the team, no matter if it’s him or me, and for the time being, that goal is being fulfilled”.
Youngsters accomplish their goals in Poitou-Charentes
Two top-ten finish were the prize for the hopefuls of the Movistar Team on day three of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes, a double sector with a 112km road race in the morning followed by an individual time trial of 24km in L’Isle-Jourdain in the evening, which took Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) into the lead after a convincing display. Enrique Sanz, green points jersey after his second place yesterday, left room for Lobato into the early sprint -the Andalusian was 8th, later DNS’ing in the TT to recover from his crash on Tuesday and start thinking about the GP Plouay, on Sunday-, while Alex Dowsett (6th), Jesús Herrada (11th) and Jasha Sütterlin (13th) completed a notable time trial which takes the Briton and the Spaniard -under-25 competition leader- into the GC’s top-ten. Poitiers, the place where Herrada won in 2013 and Ventoso also did in 2012, will close the race on Friday, over a technical, hilly circuit for a total 192km.