Vuelta a España (finale)
Alejandro Valverde finishes 2014 Vuelta a España in 3rd place, steps onto race podium for 6th time; Movistar Team avoid rain in Santiago with Malori to claim third stage win, en route to their fifth GT overall top-3 in their last seven chances
PICTURES | Vuelta a España final gallery
On the podium from start to finish. Movistar Team completed a great appearance in the 2014 Vuelta a España, beginning with a resounding win in the Jerez de la Frontera TTT and ultimately claiming the stage victory with Adriano Malori in Santiago and stepping onto the third step of the overall podium, just behind Contador (TCS) and Froome (SKY).
The Spanish rider, 32nd quickest in today’s closing epilogue in Santiago de Compostela as Malori avoided rain falling during the last two hours, claimed stage success in Cumbres Verdes (6th) en route to a landmark 6th podium finish -third on a row- in the Spanish grandtour, which he won in 2009 as well as finished in 2nd (’08, ’12) and 3rd (’03, ’13) twice each. After withdrawing from the race in his first appearance (2002), Valverde made the GC’s top five in all his eight finishes.
Valverde’s third place means the Movistar Team has made the podium of five of the last seven Grand Tours held, afrer Alejandro’s last two Vueltas a España and Nairo Quintana’s second in the 2013 Tour and first in the 2014 Giro he brilliantly conquered. The Colombian’s abandon was the negative footnote on the Blues’ achievement, forced to undergo surgery aftet two consecutive crashes and leaving the whole team downcast before they bounced back supporting Bala’s hopes to finish again on the podium of a GT. The Movistar Team stays firmly on top of the WorldTour standings.
Adriano Malori: “I’m super happy. I didn’t know how things could turn out today after all the work I had to do for my team leaders during the whole Vuelta. Luckily, the team gave me a free ticket to recover during yesterday’s stage and I could tackle this time trial at 100% focus. We knew it could rain and also that all favourites but the GC contenders, riders like Dennis, Sergent or Vandewalle, started during the first hour. When I knew I had taken eight seconds on Sergent, which looked to me like a strong favourite, I realized I had many chances to win. He put to seconds on me through the intermediate, but the second part was more for strong rouleurs, suiting me better. The watts I produced were close to the highest level I found in my time trials this season, and that means I finished the Vuelta in good condition. It’s a prize for as well the team as for myself. After what happened with Nairo, leaving with three stages and Alejandro’s podium is quite a thing. Now we travel to Ponferrada really excited about what we can do in the Worlds – I hope to do well there.”
Eusebio Unzué: “To me, this race’s overview looks more than satisfactory, especially taking into account we lost Nairo halfway through the Vuelta. Leaving Galicia with three stage wins, including Malori’s icing on top of the cake with today’s success, and fulfilling the goal of stepping onto the overall podium is really nice – we just came across the two best stageracing talents of the WorldTour peloton, and despite that, Alejandro contested the 2nd place overall right until yesterday. Neither Contador nor Froome looked unbeatable, they actually weren’t much superior to their competition, but we must concede they did things better than us. To be honest, and apart from Malori’s stage win today, we were less brilliant on the final week, but I think that was also a consequence of the strong, brilliant work we did in the opening ten stages.
“Having Nairo out of the race, I’m sure that deprived us of more victories since, even after his crash in the TT, he’d have been extremely important for Alejandro so as to close those ‘gaps’ that kept him out of contention in stages that would have otherwise easily won. Yet, we must stay really happy with what we got and especially about Alejandro: after all energies he spent throughout the season and mostly in the Tour, he charged again with responsibilty and made all his team-mates’ work count. We’ve spent already four years under Movistar’s sponsorship, but fortunately and thanks to Telefónica, we can now say we’re making history, and we also feel that by the support we receive on the roads.”
Alejandro Valverde: “I’m really satisfied with this third place and my performance through the last three weeks. Save for misfortune with Nairo’s crash, the team was a-plus. I think having Nairo still with us during the second part of the race would have changed things and make the race different for us. Still, I think this podium is a fair prize to all the work we did – we also claimed three stage wins, which is also prestigious and important. It’s yet another podium finish for me in the Vuelta – already six since I became a pro. I don’t think this hasn’t been done many times before and I’m really happy. My season has been really consistent: I won races right from the beginning in Andalusia, I was there in the classics, the Tour… but despite all of that, I don’t feel tired. Contrary to what usually happens, every seasons seems to me like shorter than the previous ones, more than when I was younger. I’m still excited about the sport, the racing, willing to give my best in what’s left this season, with two beautiful goals in the Worlds and Lombardy.”