Colossal performance by Spanish rider -together with whole Movistar Team- to conquer third Liège-Bastogne-Liège; Alejandro tops same UCI WorldTour ranking he won last season
Telefónica has added to its palmarès the monument Eusebio Unzué wished to offer them when the 2015 squad was presented in Madrid back in January. Alejandro Valverde brought the fans another one of those moments forever to remain on their memories and the Spanish rider's legend, as he prodigiously attacked with 500 meters remaining to claim his third career victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The Murcia-based superstar crowned an intelligent race supported by another exemplary piece of teamwork, from start to finish of the 253km course -with eleven demanding 'côtes'- en route to Ans.
Sutherland and Erviti, leading the Blue train before the first chain of climbs in Wanne-Stockeu-Haute Levée, and José Joaquín Rojas, always protecting his fellow countryman, started to build a success where Gorka Izagirre and José Herrada, keeping the pursuit and jumping across several moves -including an enormous 30-man break with over 60k from the end-, had big protagonism, as well as Visconti, the final helper for the squad directed by José Luis Arrieta. A crash without any consequences avoided Nairo Quintana -briefly involved on the pursuit- to keep supporting the Blues, who had Giovanni as their final, necessary weapon to jump across the gaps in the Côte de la Roche-aux-Faucons. Valverde's confidence allowed him to push at the front when needed -at the foot of the Côte de Saint-Nicolas- and later follow, searching for a final kilometer where extra energy was still to be needed.
A move from Dani Moreno, one of three Katusha riders still into the leading group, forced Valverde to command the pursuit, the Spaniard still not losing calmness. The final attack, almost a long sprint continued at the closing straight, allowed him raising his arms victorious for the sixth time in the Ardennes -once more than Hinault; one victory away from Argentin; four from record-holding Eddy Merckx-. Alejandro also jumps into the lead of the UCI WorldTour standings he won last year, as he closes the spring as the absolute 'King of the Hills.'
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: "It's just unreal. I'm still not able to realize what I have achieved and I couldn't believe myself when I crossed the line. I knew I was the biggest favourite and everyone was keeping an eye on me at all times, but the team was superb again today – they reacted perfectly in all crucial moments and we were able to win after such a demanding day, so difficult to manage. I was really paying attention to all moves at the front in the finale; I knew Alaphilippe was still there but I wasn't looking only at him, because the group was numerous and any attack could be decisive. Still, huge thumbs up to him – he's done really great and aged only 22, he's performing very high.
"At the slope of Ans, I was seeing Dani Moreno going away. After such a fast, hard race, with all the wear and tear, I knew everyone was going to be tired and also that I was going to struggled to get him back, but I stayed confident he would suffer at the end. I realized he was really going away, wanted to save some energy for the sprint but also knew I had to go after him, so I decided to attack with 600 meters to go to reach him down, but always saving a 'bullet' to sprint at the end, as I did.
"All my three victories here have been beautiful; winning in Liège is phenomenal. However, today's is even more special after such a complete week: second in Amstel, winner in Flèche, winner in Liège. It makes me even happier taking the victory here because of that, doing it in a monument of cycling… and claiming a third one is entering history. I gained strength and confidence through the last few years, and when you're calm and believe in your chances, everything becomes easier. I think this win is a result of that, too."