Volta a Catalunya (st. 2)
Alejandro Valverde and José Joaquín Rojas lead the way home in Olot's sprint after stage two gets hardened by foul weather and final climbs; fellow Spaniards now 4th and 5th overall
The insistence of the whole Movistar Team on taking the weather and the final difficulties into their advantage on stage two of the Volta a Catalunya paid off more than one could even dream. Olot, the city where the late Xavi Tondo lived for his last few years, saw Alejandro Valverde and José Joaquín Rojas crossing the line together in a splendid one-two for the Blues.
The squad directed by Arrieta and Laguía took control of the race back from race leader Maciej Paterski's CCC-Sprandi squad before the Alt de Montagut (Cat-3), the first of two climbs set to lead the race into a soft, fast final 6km. With many of the sprinters dropping back, the telephone squad kept insisting together with several squads until the very last slope into the finish, where the two Spaniards celebrated together.
It's Valverde's second victory of the 2015 season, after his exhibition in the Trofeo Serra de Tramuntana during the Challenge Mallorca, and the 11th by the telephone squad, which repeated their exploit from two years before after Quintana and Valverde himself snatched another amazing one-two in the Vallter 2000 climb. Alejandro and JJ are now fourth and fifth overall as the race takes on another group of small mountains in Wednesday's Girona circuit (157km.)
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “More than doing it to take sprinters out of the fight, the team pushed into the final kilometers to keep ourselves well placed against the rain and any danger that could show up. Herrada did a phenomenal job leading the group in that section, and the whole team was fantastic from start to finish. All of my team-mates were always focused on avoiding any problems, bringins us weather clothes, food… I want to thank all of them as well as the whole team for their huge work.
"I started that final kilometer up-front, with a couple of Etixx riders pushing just before myself. When they stopped, I found myself right in front of the whole pack and started looking behind – I didn't really know who was there, I wanted to position myself better and some riders started gaining places. When I saw Elmiger, I profited from a small split on the leadout to follow his wheel and start looking for my sprinting distance. When he jumped, I went after him, yet with some doubts as I didn't know if it was right to give 100% at that point, but then again, I saw many others on the left side overcoming us and I didn't hesitate anymore, I attacked. I wasn't conscious about Rojas coming from behing, either; at the end, we took first and second, a big joy for us.
"There's a quite demanding climb tomorrow, with a pretty difficult descent afterwards. We'll see what happens; we must stay focused, as well myself as Ruben who are doing strong this week, and let's see how I recover from the efforts. I came into this race after Sanremo, which is almost like two stages, and the first two days here were also demanding – but you never know.
"I want to send all my thoughts and also on behalf of the team to those involved in the Alps tragedy, their families and friends. Also, I want to remember and honour the family of Xavi Tondo. He lived here in Olot and as well today as in other days, we keep him present within the team – let's hope he enjoyed this one, wherever he's now."