Vuelta a España (st. 10)
Rojas takes 3rd in Castellón as Valverde gets through pain, unscathed on Vuelta stage ten; Bala, Quintana remain sixth, seventh overall before first long transfer to Andorra's rest day
A 110km transfer in the morning from their Denia hotel to the Marina Real Juan Carlos I port in Valencia; 146km of racing, always at a very high speed, towards Castellón; and an additional 380km, again on the team bus, to reach their hotel in north Andorra. All of that, combined with pain from crashes suffered last weekend by three of their riders -Valverde, Rojas and Visconti-, made never a rest day harder to reach and better deserved than the first in the Vuelta a España for the Movistar Team, which got through a dangerous day well and even contested the stage win with José Joaquín Rojas.
The Cieza-born rider took 3rd place, behind Sbaragli (MTN) and Degenkolb (TGA), after crazy speeds in the beginning neutralized a 40-man breakaway with Amador and Erviti, always paying attention to the attacks. The Movistar Team controlled the race later on to protect their leaders, as Erviti, Sutherland, Ventoso, Amador and Moreno looked after Quintana and Valverde into the flat before Rojas and Visconti worked into the Desierto de las Palmas climb and afterwards. Only in the finale they went for their chances: the Italian, with an attack 2km from the finish line, and the Spaniard, close to a maiden stage win in the Vuelta, on the same straight that awarded him the national road race title in 2011.
Nothing changed in the overall standings from Sunday, with Dumoulin (TGA) safely in the lead as Valverde and Quintana stay tied at 1'17", sixth and seventh respectively. After the descanso, Wednesday will bring one of the hardest stages in Vuelta history: only 138km -all over Andorran roads-, yet with an estimated 5,000m vertical drop and six ascents: Beixalis (Cat-1), Ordino (Cat-1), La Rabassa (Cat-1), La Gallina (HC), La Comella (Cat-2) and Els Cortals d’Encamp (Cat-1).
José Joaquín Rojas: "I was close to the win, but I really sprinted more with my heart than with my legs. This was a stage I kept written down on my to-chase-list, because I had won the Spanish national championships here, but my collarbone hurt really, really much – there's still a lot of inflammation on it. I really wanted to do a good race here, and with painkillers and some guts, I tried to bring the team a stage win, but it vanished on the finish line. I really had legs to win in Murcia and here today, but this time, the collarbone pain was too much. The most important thing is that our team leaders got through the day well, and we've got two weeks ahead to keep chasing this victory and get them to overall success."
Alejandro Valverde: "Looking at how it could have been, the stage turned out pretty well. I can't complain about how I felt on the bike, I can ride well; the worst time is when I have to raise my arm – it really hurts, there's a lot of things (like taking my musette or having drinks, food) that I have to do with the right hand… it hurts, but what worries me the most is that the body blocks itself to recover. I hope to take advantage of this rest day and do all I can on Wednesday."