Volta a Catalunya (st. 5)
Spaniard completes brilliant ride towards Valls to claim second stage victory in Volta a Catalunya, after Movistar Team's immense work into crosswinds
Still with pain in their hearts after the hard crash and injury by Pablo Lastras yesterday in the Queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya, Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team went into day five of the event – 195km between Alp and Valls, hometown of the late Xavi Tondo- looking to dedicate him a victory. And they succeeded. The Spaniard rewarded the fans with yet another exhibition of cycling so far in this 2015 season as the strongest man on course in the finale, following splendid tactics from the lads directed by José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía.
Echelons caused into the crosswinds by riders from the telephone squad, together with Team Sky, reduced the main bunch to around twenty riders, not including neither Dan Martin (GRS) nor race leader Bart De Clercq (LTS). The crucial help by Herrada and Anacona was later followed by a great Rubén Fernández, who pushed at the front to increase the gaps towards one minute on the foot of the Alt de Lilla (Cat-2), the final difficulty of the day. There, the Murcia-based youngster left responsibility to Alejandro Valverde, who launched a strong attacked which only eight riders could follow, and kept the pace high into the descent.
Three kilometers from the finish, the lack of cooperation and a small gap into the group let Valverde search for a late move and come victorious across the line, five seconds ahead of the first group for his 86th pro victory, third of his 2015 season (Movistar Team's 12th this year). The Spaniard climbs into fourth overall, 16" behind new blanc-i-verd jersey holder Richie Porte (SKY) with two stages to go -a predictable sprint in Port Aventura (Saturday) and the Montjuïc showdown on Sunday-, where anything could happen.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really beautiful day for all of us. We knew there was going to be some wind in the finale, the whole team was attentive and always riding on the front and we decided to accelerate. We were able to make the gap, let De Clercq and Martin behind, and also cooperated well with the other teams, since we all had an interest to leave the rivals behind – we really pushed at 100%. Once Rubén was dropped back, I saw everyone was leaving all responsibility on my shoulders into the break into the last kilometer of the climb, so I jumped away to try and shrink the field. They weren't taking the turns into the downhill, either, so when I saw a gap, I digged, I was able to leave them behind and snatch those five more seconds.
"It's true that now, seeing that we're 16 seconds behind, that time we lost in Girona is awful for us. Moreover, the crash did change things completely: it wasn't a hard blow at all, but every time you suffer a crash, you feel in pain when you wake up the following that, and combined with all the efforts into the mountain stage and me suffering with cold into the Creueta descent… all of that made me reach La Molina not in the best condition I'd have wished. Still, I think I'm doing a pretty good work in this Volta, as well myself as the whole team, and we're really happy. Let's see what happens until Sunday in Montjuïc. We already did great and we'll fight for what it's left. The GC is close, we're pretty much equal when it comes to energy and even the bonus seconds might be key.
"Every time we come to the Volta a Catalunya we always remember Xavi a lot; we always do, in every race, and every victory we achieve, though we don't always say it, is for him. We also remember Pablo, after his crash yesterday. Let this victory serve so we can remind him we're by his side, giving every bit of energy on the road to make him happy – this is also for you."