Giro d'Italia (st. 20)
Alejandro Valverde gives it all on final mountains of Giro d'Italia for a well-deserved podium finish, secures third place overall behind Nibali (AST) and Chaves (OGE) after grueling riding towards Sant'Anna di Vinadio
Alejandro Valverde, debutant in the Giro d'Italia at 36 years old, all but secured a podium finish for the Movistar Team which grants him another big place in the cycling history books, following yet another amazing mountain stage from Guillestre to Sant'Anna di Vinadio (134km). Attacking from the very first Col de Vars (Cat-1), always keeping his 43" deficit against third-placed Steven Kruijswijk (TLJ) in mind, but above all, without losing his essence, the main value that has turned him into the most consistent rider in decades: never surrendering. The Spanish road race champion profited from an impressive acceleration by Vincenzo Nibali (AST), 4km from the top of the Colle della Lombarda (Cat-1), to leave the Dutchman behind and put a gap against former leader Esteban Chaves (OGE), which couldn't even follow the wheel of Alejandro.
Because Valverde is way more than a classics rider. The telephone squad's leader, barring any incidents towards Turin on Sunday, will join the selected group of riders who have claimed podium finishes in all three Grand Tours. Another success to add to a long list which includes four Flèches Wallonnes, three Liège-Bastogne-Liège, one Vuelta a España, two Critérium du Dauphiné, two Clásicas de San Sebastián, 14 Grand Tour stage wins, three national road titles and six medals in the World Championships, not to forget his four UCI WorldTour titles. Undoubtedly, this podium marks the icing on top of the most polyvalent rider to have ever been born in Spain and made part of the Movistar Team's ranks.
This Giro d'Italia, fought like no other one by the whole team after abandons from Javi Moreno and Carlos Betancur, is the reward to many months of work… and a whole career's dedication. Alejandro Valverde responded for his team-mates, his loved ones and his fans to climb into 3rd overall in the 'Corsa Rosa'. A podium he will step on tomorrow in the capital city of Piedmont.
Alejandro Valverde: "I'm extremely happy about today's. I think everyone could see it when I punched the air so hard after the finish, standing there, waiting for the overall podium to be confirmed. It seemed as if I had won the race myself. It wasn't easy at all, but we got that third place and we came so close to the second spot. It's nothing short of incredible for me. Being on the podium of all three Grand Tours is a phenomenal achievement for my career. And at the end, after struggling so much in altitude, it seemed like I got used to it, because my legs during the final climbs were fantastic. The job we did all day, from the first attacks in Vars, the whole team helping me out in the Col de la Bonette, plus that final hand from Visco in Sant'Anna… it was marvellous. So many 'tifosi' at the final slopes meant I didn't have any real time gaps coming from my earpiece, I couldn't hear them, but I knew I was putting time on those behind, that we were climbing strong and, with visuals against Nibali, even taking time back on him. The last two ascents – it all really went well. I can only be happy.
"It was another surprising day to close a Giro with lots of changes, quite different from what fans and people around the race could expect for. Nibali? We knew he was going to be really strong again today, and into the stage, before his attack, we could feel he was going to drop Chaves behind. He truly deserves this final victory. I was stronger than him at some stages, while he beat me at others. Both of us, Chaves too, deserve to be on the podium. I consider myself a good rider, who gives everything for myself, my team, my fans. Stepping onto the Turin podium with my kids tomorrow will be a massive satisfaction."