Alejandro Valverde takes 3rd in Clásica San Sebastián following illness right after the Tour, increases lead in WorldTour as Movistar Team closes in on Sky
Following an illness right after the end of the Tour de France in Paris, which left him feverish and under antibiotics for three days, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) brought again his fighting spirit to the fore to claim his fifth podium finish -3rd across the line- in the 35th Clásica de San Sebastián, over 219km with six rated climbs in the Basque Country.
The Movistar Team was the most involved on keeping the breakaways under control from the very start, as Rory Sutherland, Visconti, Jesús Herrada, Javi Moreno and Rubén Fernández successively took the lead of the bunch until the second climb towards Jaizkibel (Cat-1). In that point, 60km from the finish, two pursuit groups -including the likes of Landa (AST), Barguil (TGA) or Arredondo (TFR)- bridged back to the remnants of the break, while Gilbert (BMC) tried a dangerous move through the final ascent of Arkale (Cat-2). The Belgian added stress into a bunch that had to make a great effort -with Katusha and Tinkoff taking the reigns of the group, as Rojas and Anacona protected Valverde- so as to chase all of them down before the Bordako Tontorra (Cat-2).
As Greg van Avermaet (BMC) briefly escaped into the uphill, Adam Yates (OGE) made a well-timed move to overtake him and open a decisive gap over Valverde’s group, always under vigilance from Rodríguez (KAT), Mollema (TFR), Martin (TCG), Kreuziger (TCS) or Urán (EQS). That situation ruined any chances of getting Yates back and allowed a second group, including Gilbert, coming across. The BMC rider bested Alejandro for 2nd place, yet the Spaniard’s brave performance takes him 110 points up on Chris Froome (SKY) -532 vs. 422- in the UCI WorldTour individual ranking. The Movistar Team now sits just 77pt behind Sky -1142, against 1219- in the collective standings.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “The team was impressive and I thank all of them for what they did for me today. Still, Yates was really strong and we must congratulate him for that well-deserved victory: we knew he would be up there with the favourites, since he already showed he could do well before his crash last year, and today he timed his efforts perfectly and said ‘here I am’ to everyone. There wasn’t much cooperation into my group either, and we had to fight for second place into the sprint.
It was also surprising when Gilbert and Dani Moreno bridged to our pursuit group almost into the final corner, launching the sprint right afterwards. Fortunately, I could overtake Dani into the final meters to finish in third. It was awful not to be able to win and reward the team for their immense job, but this podium is also important. Now, we’ll take some rest and start preparing for the Vuelta – we must try and do our best there.”