Vuelta (st. 18) / ToB (st. 5)
Alejandro Valverde now 3rd overall after finishing in an identical position atop Monte Castrove, Froome (SKY) coming across the line 12″ ahead of the Spaniard from Movistar Team
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The overall fight in the 2014 Vuelta a España stays and will likely remain alive for the last mountain stage in the race (Ancares, Saturday) after the penultimate hilltop finish -Castrove (Cat-2), climbed twice at the end of a really fast 157km- left really small gaps between the four top riders in the GC. Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team went for the stage win all the way right from the start, with Erviti, Malori, Herrada, Moreno and Castroviejo working hard to control all breaks -the latter one even made part of a short move- in an entire opening hour and a half at speeds over 50 kph.
The three-man escape that was given green light would be eventually controlled and neutralized right after the first passage through the line; then, Amador, Castroviejo and Gorka Izagirre protected Valverde and led him into the final ascent. Several moves by all GC contenders anticipated a decisive, double acceleration by Aru (AST) and Froome with just over 2km remaining, which did not find effective response from Rodríguez, Contador and Valverde. The Murcia-born rider crossed the line in 3rd place to step a place down in the overall, after the Briton put 16″ on him including the bonuses.
The Blues will keep fighting to bounce back on Friday, in a third-to-last stage -attention needed to the Monte Faro (Cat-2) before Cangas’ finish (181km)- that will play as launchpad to the double showdown on both the mountains and the TT bike this weekend.
Alejandro Valverde: “When Froome attacked, there wasn’t much cooperation behind: I pushed into the group from the beginning to not let the two go, but I always had to keep an eye on my side so Purito didn’t attack, which was the thing he did all the time. Though we tried and we were closed in the final section, we couldn’t catch them. Still, we must keep fighting because we’re still in the mix. I don’t really think Froome is doing better than us; he’s physically level with us three, but he was simply smarter today and took advantage that we three were controlling each other. We already imagined Froome was going to contest the intermediate sprint and we sent team-mates ahead, but despite that, he managed to take second. We will have to keep full focus tomorrow and give everything we’ve got left on Saturday before the final TT.”
Stoke Hill indecisive for Tour of Britain outcome
On British soil, Ion Izagirre and Giovanni Visconti are still respectively 5th and 10th overall after stage five -177km from Exmouth to Exeter-. Austrian Matthias Brändle (IAM) profited from chase mistiming by the bunch to win solo ahead of a 40-rider group selected into the Stoke Hill (Cat-2). Four of the Blues made part of it, including a really attentive Ion Izagirre, yet no gaps were made between the GC contenders. The scenario is likely to repeat on day six tomorrow: even though it will be a long -205km en route to Hemel Hempstead-, lumpy route, the Nasleigh (Cat-3) ascent, 14km from the finish, doesn’t seem too much for neither the top guns nor strong sprinters.