Vuelta a Castilla y León (final stage)
Valverde not leaving room to surprise: wins atop Alto de la Plataforma after team-mate Betancur struggles, claims first career Vuelta a Castilla y León GC to earn his 95th pro success. Movistar Team now up to 12 wins in 2016
The Movistar Team were infallible, committed in full and more successful than ever in the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Alejandro Valverde and the Blues left the Spanish event with all four major victories at stake as the Spanish road race champion, always trying to keep team-mate and GC leader Carlos Betancur into contention for a well-deserved overall victory, ultimately had to go on his own after the Colombian struggled into the last climb of stage three. ‘El Imbatido’ showed his best form leading up to the Giro and got closer to the magic number of 100 pro victories -now at 95- while taking Eusebio Unzué’s outfit up to fourth in the victory rankings with 12, seven of them in barely fifteen days.
The final day of racing in northwestern Spain -161.4km between Salamanca and Candelario- always had the telephone squad at the front, with the likes of Arcas, Dowsett, Pedrero, Rojas or Winner keeping all attempts under control. With the Movistar Team not allowing the day’s main break opening gaps bigger than two minutes and a late move by Lluis Mas (CJR) efficiently suffocated, the roster directed by José Luis Jaimerena and José Luis Laguía made sure it all came down to the 6km Alto de la Plataforma (Cat-1).
Without Betancur, dropped back halfway through the ascent after plenty of attacks, Valverde took the rains to chase down every other attempt and use his speed at the end to claim his fifth success of 2016. As a result of this victory, the Movistar Team has already conquered four races overall in 2016, all of them in style: San Luis, with Dayer Quintana -Nairo at his service-; Andalucía, again with ‘Bala’ after an excellent Peñas Blancas climb; and Catalunya, where Quintana bested some of the world’s top stageracers. Undoubtedly, a huge boost of morale for the whole squad, just three weeks ahead of the Giro start.
Alejandro Valverde: “I’m leaving Castilla y León full of happiness. The race couldn’t have gone better -stage wins for Betancur and myself, the GC- and, above all, this is an excellent way to get the racing pace and start building up before the Giro, which I’m so excited about. I want to thank the whole team – they worked their heart out all weekend long and even more so today, from the very beginning.
“At the final climb, my main priority was keeping Carlos into contention; there were several moves into the first slopes of the ascent and we could control them more or less comfortably, without him losing the wheel of the group. However, at some point he started to suffer, and we had to keep going so we could still stand a chance. I managed well that group with Brandao and the Caja Rural riders before going for the sprint with 100 meters to go.
“Now it’s all about Flèche and Liège. Going for the win? Well, we will see. The field of contenders is completely different to what I had to face this weekend. Those are races I’ve really enjoyed for years, but my main goal at the moment is staying safe and keeping my form going up before the biggest goal of the early season for me, which is the Giro.”
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport / Luis Ángel Gómez