Spanish champion and Movistar Team unsuccessfully try to make up gap to crucial break on Tirreno-Adriatico's penultimate stage; 'Bala' loses only 7", shows immense class and looks forward to rest of spring
Despite not being able to make a defining move in this particular edition of Tirreno-Adriatico, Alejandro Valverde still showed his unique ability to sprint against some of the world's fastest men on a bike into the uphill finish of Cepagatti (stage six), end of a very long (210km), tremendously fast last road stage in Italy's Marche region.
An acceleration originated by the day's last intermediate sprint, during the final two local laps (22km), created a prestigious break including Sagan (TNK), Gaviria, Stybar (EQS), Kwiatkowski (SKY) or eventual stage winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). The attempt, which ammassed almost 30" of advantage and was even countered by Vincenzo Nibali (AST) and Jan Bakelants (ALM), found two responses from the Blues: a move by Valverde alone into the penultimate ascent to the line and, later on, a furious pursuit by the telephone squad, the 5" gap between 'Bala' and the leaders growing up back again to 20", with only six kilometers to cover.
At the end, the effort did not reach its goal: Valverde finished in 6th spot, 7" behind breakaway members Van Avermaet, Sagan, Kwiatkowski and Stybar; on the wheel of top sprinter Caleb Ewan (OGE); and ahead of the likes of Sacha Modolo (LAM) or Moreno Hofland (TLJ) – a proof of the incontestable polivalence of the Las Lumbreras-born rider. Tirreno-Adriatico will come to a close on Tuesday with the traditional, 10km ITT in and around San Benedetto del Tronto, which Alejandro will start at 48" from new GC leader Van Avermaet.
Alejandro Valverde: "It was quite a calm stage except for the end, which was really nervous with that break forming up after the intermediate sprint. We were all of us, as well myself as the whole team, close twice to chasing down that move, but it wasn't possible at the end. My team-mates did well and I must remain happy with that sixth place and the good legs. Tomorrow's ITT is completely flat, with long straights, so, other than giving my best as I always do, there's no real GC goal to chase – since the stage we could do something to make up our gap, Sunday's mountain-top finish, was cancelled, it was obvious it was pretty much over. Still, I remain content: these six days will be good for the objectives to come during the spring."