Giro d'Italia (st. 1)
Sensational Alejandro Valverde (6th) breaks the field into pieces in Alpe di Poti, shines in the 'sterrato' alongside fantastic Movistar Team, with brilliant tactics towards Arezzo's finish. Spanish road race champion now 4th overall before key Chianti TT
After a hard blow on Friday with the abandon by Javi Moreno, the Movistar Team losing a key mountain domestique for the Giro after a crash, the telephone squad knew how to bounce back perfectly and shine on stage eight of the Italian grandtour (Foligno – Arezzo, 169km). The squad directed by Chente and Jaimerena kept the fore of the race already from the early breakaway, with Rojas -showing in the 2015 Vuelta he's more than talented for the mid mountains- and Sütterlin, supporting his team-mate early on before becoming a point of reference for Valverde himself in the finale.
As the 14-rider leading group held a four-minute gap before the Alpe di Poti ascent, the Blues' leader came up to tear the race apart. Alejandro Valverde launched a series of strong attacks from the foot of the climb, his first acceleration already too much for race leader Tom Dumoulin (TGA) and putting Mikel Landa's (SKY) balance into jeopardy. The telephone squad's labour from that point was perfect, with all Amador, Jasha and 'Rojillas' offering his wheel for Alejandro wherever it was needed during the ascent, the subsequent downhill and the last 7k flat before the kick up the finish.
Gianluca Brambilla (EQS) stayed away to claim the stage victory and the Maglia Rosa, as Valverde, sixth over the line, climbed onto fourth overall, 36” from the Italian and 13” behind Zakarin (2nd), with Amador in 13th place. The Giro will tackle a trascendental, hilly 40.5km ITT in the Chianti wineyard zone, where 'Bala' will try to keep progressing and make his pink dream even stronger.
Alejandro Valverde: “Having two team-mates into the breakaway, I thought it was worth to try it from the foot of the climb and going on full steam until the top, so both Rojillas and Jasha could wait for me and help us out as much as possible. And it went well: they did a nice job and the whole squad's performance was phenomenal. Most GC rivals into the group were doing well, but Dumoulin was struggling, and my intention was to put as much time on him as possible, because he's the strongest of the GC field for the time trial. The rest looked pretty much at the same energy; Fuglsang also suffered a bit… it's pretty equal at the moment.
"Even though he had a 'so-so' day, I still think Dumoulin can win the Giro. I didn't expect I could put such a gap into him, but I felt strong and didn't hesitate for a moment to try it. I'm happy with this result. We lost an important team-mate in Javi Moreno yesterday, one in great form, but we bounced back well and did a great race. Tomorrow's TT will be really demanding. It's a route that suits me well; it's a technical, demanding one. I hope I can limit my losses and maybe gain some more time. I just hope I can find these good legs again tomorrow. I don't feel as the number one favourite in this Giro, not at all; many riders will be in the fight, and it will be a hard one."