Vuelta (st. 19) / Britain (et. 6) / Québec
Valverde, Movistar Team relentlessly go on the attack in Ávila's finish, as Andrey Amador fights for the stage, takes 4th. Teams' overall all but decided as Blues lead by more than twenty minutes
“When one doesn’t have anything to lose, he tries, tries and tries.” Alejandro Valverde summed up, right after crossing the finish line in Ávila, the Movistar Team’s character during stage 19 of the Vuelta a España (186km), which the telephone squad grabbed by its horns all day, especially in its finale through the Alto de la Paramera (Cat-2).
“I’m not able to aim for the Vuelta anymore yet I don’t settle down, so I went on the attack again today… and why not giving it some more tries tomorrow.” The Spaniard’s repeated, strong attacks -preceeded by the pace set by Erviti, Rojas and Visconti- into the last ascent and later on, during the fast descent towards the Walls, forced Astana and Tinkoff to put all their energy at the front to catch him. Ahead of the peloton, a 24-man breakaway saw Fran Ventoso (10th) and especially Andrey Amador (4th) contesting the victory, claimed by Frenchman Alexis Gougeard (ALM) after he went solo on the climb and held an impressive pace against the pursuit in the kilometers after.
The two Blue escapees and Quintana, Valverde’s presence into the favourites’ group were an almost decisive blow to the teams’ classification from the Movistar Team, now almost 23’ ahead of Sky. At the individual GC, Nairo and ‘Bala’ remain in fifth and sixth overall before Saturday’s showdown in the Sierra de Guadarrama, a 176km trek with no serious slopes, yet with four Cat-1 climbs: Navacerrada, Morcuera (2x) and Cotos, before the final descent towards Cercedilla.
Tour of Britain: Gorka Izagirre close to major GC shake-up
The most exciting stage so far in the Tour of Britain was close to turning the overall classification upside down in favour of the Movistar Team, whose rider Gorka Izagirre tried to repeat Alex Dowsett’s move exactly on stage six in 2014.
An eight-man attack led almost half of the demanding journey towards Nottingham (192km) with around a minute’s gap over a 20-rider yellow jersey group including Rubén Fernández -not Beñat Intxausti, who sat in 4th overall up to date- and only two riders from Sky, fighting to help out Wout Poels, 2nd overall.
Only the late help by Cult, Tinkoff and an attack by the leader himself -2nd in the stage, behind Trentin (EQS)- ruined Gorka’s chances, the Spanish allrounder caught with 7km to go and later rewarded with the Combativity prize. Fernández is now 7th overall, with no major changes expected int the two flat stages remaining until London on Sunday.
Québec: Sütterlin shines
At the third, final race for the Blues on Friday, the 201km GP Québec, two from the Movistar Team featured in the elite group anticipated by a late attack from Rigoberto Urán (EQS): Ion Izagirre (22nd), well placed into the final climb of La Potasse, yet with no energy left for an open sprint in the Grande-Allée; and most notably Jasha Sütterlin (27th), much active into the last three laps and more serious than ever about his chances to do well in the WorldTour scene.
The teamwork by Enrique Sanz, paying attention to the breaks -Soler and Herrada were also vigilant in the beginning of the race- and a short attack from Castroviejo in the second-to-last lap together with Gilbert (BMC) -the Basque later suffering a not-serious crash- completed the Blues' presence up front in the first of two Canadian classics of the weekend -Montréal, harder than its Québecoise counterpart, will follow on Sunday-.