Alejandro Valverde finishes 3rd overall, becomes one of only 16 riders to claim podiums in all three Grand Tours; Movistar Team shines with Amador's pink jersey (8th in GC; Blues only team with two top-ten finishers), Bala's stage win in Andalo. Spanish squad now up to nine consecutive GTs in top-4 overall (since 2013 TDF)
Turin witnessed Vincenzo Nibali's (AST) celebration as winner of the 99th Giro d'Italia, the second in his career, following a wet 163km finishing stage from Cuneo, which Nikias Arndt (TGA) won into a bunch sprint. The day's racing also confirmed a fantastic third place overall in the 'Corsa Rosa' for Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), in a more-than-successful debut in the race at 36 years old. The squad directed by José Luis Jaimerena and Chente García Acosta went through all states of mind in the Italian grandtour: the (brief) pink dream by Andrey Amador; the disappointment of seeing their chances almost ruined in Corvara; the fury on their performances in both the Alpe di Siusi TT and most notably Bala's win in Andalo; and the final rollercoaster in the Alps, fighting for a podium place that wasn't confirmed until the final kilometers of Saturday's stage twenty towards Sant'Anna di Vinadio. The best proof that Valverde never surrenders.
This third place in the Giro d'Italia makes Alejandro Valverde become the 16th rider ever -sixth, from those born in Spain- to have stepped onto the podium of all three Grand Tours, just one short (8) from Miguel Indurain's 'national record' of nine. The Movistar Team, which climbs into second place in the 2016 UCI WorldTour standings, has already claimed nine consecutive Grand Tour finishes within the best four in the individual classification -ever since the 2013 Tour de France-, six of them into the podium. Quite a streak for the only squad in this Giro to have placed two of their members –Andrey Amador was 8th overall- in the GC's final top ten, three into the best 15 -Giovanni Visconti was 13th-.
The day's racing also brought some bad news as Jasha Sütterlin crashed into the final circuit in Turin. The German debutant was moved to the Giro's portable clinic next to the finish line, with his right knee and left arm and shoulder hurt. No fractures were signaled after checkups.
Alejandro Valverde's post-race reflections:
Overview: "It's been a great Giro d'Italia for our team. We've worn pink with Andrey, won a stage, fought for some more with second and fourth places… and at the end, after so many sacrifices, we took that third spot overall. Personally, I'm really happy with how the season is going for me so far, and also to have claimed that podium finish in my first-ever Giro d'Italia."
Not without huge efforts: "We had many days of pure struggling, but we knew how to stand up, bounce back and get to the place where we wanted to me. I knew that after Corvara -a bad day for me, due to the altitude and difficult sensations-, there was still much to be ridden in this Giro. What normally happens in this race is that the final week turns so hard that changes can happen everywhere. Plus, all big favourites had at least one really bad day. That made things so exciting for the fans. My victory in Andalo was a huge relief for the team, and showed that we had recovered well from such misfortune."
A difficult race for the whole squad: "All my team-mates, from the first to the last one, gave everything they had in store. Bad luck stroke us twice, early in the race with Javi Moreno's abandon on stage five and later on with Carlos Betancur, who struggled for a whole week with his stomach really wasted, and had to leave the Giro two days before Turin. Those who remained here gave all they had, and the reward for such efforts was pretty beautiful."
In love with the Giro: "I really liked it. I enjoyed so much to race here. It's a race completely different to the Tour, more similar to the Vuelta a España, way more calm and with different stress to what you suffer from in France. Why not coming back next year?"
Dedication: "This is for everyone who always relied on me and believed I could do well. For my family, my wife, my kids. Those who haven' been able to join us here due to crashes, like Malori and Castroviejo. Plus, Xavi Tondo, who always remains in my mind."
A message to the Movistar Team's fans: "Thanks so much for keeping your strength coming and supporting me, as well as the whole team. I hope you've seen during this Giro that we never keep trying, we're always fighting for success. The Movistar Team is falling and getting back on the bike, struggling and yet keeping giving everything, in good and bad times. When you do that, victory is always assured."
Next goals: "My next big objective from now is mainly the Rio Olympics. We will go to the Tour in order to support Nairo Quintana. I want to make it clear, from this very moment, that I will be losing time on the first week and take things easier so I can help Nairo out and give my best in the mountains. Also, if it's possible and it doesn't compromise the team's goals, I'd like to chase some stage wins or make it into the break and help the team from there. Our motto for the Tour remains the #SueñoAmarillo, winning the Tour with Nairo at last, and then, the Rio Games."