Alejandro Valverde hopes to confirm second Grand Tour top-5 finish in 2014 after five demanding, final days in Vuelta a España; Movistar Team not excluding any result despite conceding on superiority by Contador
Despite suffering in the final 5km of the La Farrapona climb on Monday, ultimately losing 40″ on Chris Froome (SKY) and 53″ to solid Alberto Contador (TCS), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) kept his moral high during the press conference held in the outskirts of A Coruña during the second rest day of the Vuelta a España. The telephone squad’s leader, still in 2nd overall -just over 1’30” behind the Spaniard, three seconds ahead of the Briton-, stays confident as he thins the final days of racing suit him better, with the double passage over the short Monte Castrove (Thursday) and the final TT in Santiago (Sunday) as well as the mountains leading to Ancares (Saturday), where he hopes race circumstances play on his favour to keep chances alive in the Spanish grandtour. These were his words to the media this afternoon:
“I was riding behind Purito during the climb. When he started losing ground and Froome attacked, really strong, I hesitated for a moment – still, should I have reached Froome and Contador after that first attack, I think I’d have ended up paying the efforts and losing even more time. I did cooperate with Purito in the pursuit, but it was a climb of fast speeds and it was hurting me more than having a real effect on the gaps when I pushed forward, I was just over the limit. Not much energy left on the tank, either. I would have been really much closer to the overall win if I had kept the wheel of the two yesterday, but with one stage like Ancares’ and the other finishers still remaining, anything could happen – I don’t rule out anything, because I think the stages left really suit me well, they’re beautiful, not as tough as yesterday’s, but definitely hard. Looking at how things stood yesterday, nobody could argue Alberto is really strong. It will be hard to take him down from the place he’s in right now, but it’s not impossible. Should we win one of the stages coming up right after today, we might take some seconds back and… who knows. The race is not over till the last day, we mustn’t surrender.
“As I said, Alberto looks like he’s got the grip to this race. He started off well, but really upped the game yesterday, he looked really confident on himself. Besides, despite not having as strong of a team as others, his block is quite decent and I don’t think he will have any problems with it. However, there’s one week left; there’s Froome against him; I don’t rule out my own chances; Purito is at 2’29” but things like Fuente Dé’s stages have happened in previous editions… it looks good for Alberto, but not easy. On the other hand, we didn’t think Froome would do as good as yesterday; he didn’t hesitate for a moment after his team-mates picked up the pace and attacked with 5km remaining – still, he suffered in the Lagos climb. We will see how everything goes until Sunday, but the only important thing for us is keeping the fans enjoying this race – we will give everything we’ve left, plus the route is challenging as well as beautiful.
“I haven’t thought yet about how much time would I need against Froome for the final TT. But why not riding faster than him on that course? It’s almost a prologue, and I usually do well on those. I might beat him or not, obviously, but it’s not a 40km TT. Also, even though I feel tired, which is normal after sixteen days into a GT, I’m feeling great – to my view, stronger than at this point into the Tour. Staying until the final day of the TDF fighting for the podium, coming into this Vuelta – even though as second GC man behind Nairo – claiming stage wins and staying up-front, second and still up and fighting… I think it deserves credit.”