Strade Bianche Eroica Pro
Movistar Team leader repeats last year's 3rd place finish in Strade Bianche after excellent manners from both team and rider, always seizing control of the race in one of their best performances in years
Like happened twelve months ago, victory was denied to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), but contrary to 2014, the performance by the Spaniard in the Strade Bianche Eroica Pro wasn't by any means second to a real victory. The Spaniard from the telephone squad shared the podium (3rd) in Siena's Piaza del Campo with Zdenek Stybar (EQS, 1st) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC, 2nd), after excellent efforts from all his team-mates and 'Bala' himself almost from the starting flag of the 200km course -with ten sections of 'sterrato' gravel roads- in San Gimignano.
The impulse by Soler, Ventoso, Sanz and Sütterlin was notable from the very start, controlling the early, eight-man break of the day until catching them in the Monte Sante Marie (-52km) and always launching the pace, with Lastras, Amador and Visconti also prominently featuring at the front. Valverde, always attentive at the head of the race, first jumped strong into an attack by Sagan (TCS) and Stybar, with whom he rode for about ten kilometers, and later caused the final selection into the Colle Pinzuto, 20k from the finish, together with his two rivals on the podium. The enormous courage by the Murcia-based rider led him into contending position afoot the Via Santa Caterina final ascent, yet left him with no strength against his rivals.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “I tried to show that attitude the fans ask us to bring to the races, and that's why I'm super happy with my performance today. The work from the start by the whole team was fantastic. The gusty winds today made important to stay in good position all the time, and as we started all sections of 'sterrato' on front, we gained much confidence. I took command of the race far from the finish, always going for all the moves and creating some myself, and that might have made me reach the finish not as strong as I'd have liked to.
"Surely I might have taken a bit too much of an effort, but on the other hand, we have to value what Van Avermaet and Stybar did. They're tremendously talented, they're specialists in these race and they might even come in better condition than I did, considering they're supposed to peak on De Ronde and Roubaix and they rode an important race like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last Saturday. I took some gels at 5k to go, hoping I would recover a bit as I was feeling empty, but I wasn't able and I also started to cramp – I really had to stay content with 3rd place.
"Still, I'm really happy with my job and all the team's – I really feel great. Now it's time for some days of rest and building up a bit more so we can reach the Volta a Catalunya, my next race, in better condition."