Tour de France (st. 2)
Alejandro Valverde takes 3rd behind Sagan (TNK), Alaphilippe (EQS) at Cherbourg's uphill sprint; Nairo Quintana climbs into 7th overall as all Pinot, Nibali, Contador, Porte concede time against the two Blues
He’s coming into the Tour de France after a brilliant podium in a demanding Giro d’Italia, and following a long recovery period in order to serve Nairo late into the Tour de France, also looking to peak at the Olympics road race. However, Alejandro Valverde’s (Movistar Team) consistence has always been in a league of his own. The Spanish superstar, always working hard taking wind out of Quintana’s face on stage two of the Tour de France -183km between Saint-Lô and Cherbourg-en-Cotentin-, brought his class to the fore in the demanding, closing stages, which featured the hills of Octeville and La Glacerie (Cat-3) plus a final kilometer uphill. ‘Bala’ finished in third spot, behind Julian Alaphilippe (EQS) and stage winner, new GC leader Peter Sagan (TNK).
The commitment from every single Movistar Team rider towards Nairo was the best possible yet again today. Erviti, Oliveira, Anacona, the Izagirre Brothers, Herrada and Moreno always kept full focus to take care of the Colombian’s chances, Quintana always at the front into the last two côtes before finishing the race in a respectable 17th place. The result leaves him in seventh overall (+14”) as the GC sees four pre-race contenders losing time: Pinot (FDJ) and Nibali (AST), eleven seconds each; Contador (TNK), more than a minute behind Sagan; and Porte (BMC), almost two minutes back.
The ‘Grande Boucle’ goes for the big plains of the Center on Monday as stage three covers 224km between Granville and Angers, where another slightly uphill bunch kick awaits.
Alejandro Valverde: “We couldn’t take so many risks before the closing climbs; it wasn’t worth for me since, while it’s obvious that I could chase the stage win, everyone in this team has come to this Tour to help Nairo out. He’s 100,000 times better positioned than me and with a better shot at the Tour that I’ll ever be. That said, into such a finish, with wide roads, it wasn’t difficult for me to get in a good place, and once there, you just don’t break – you’ve got to go for it.
“I was doing well before the last kilometer uphill, but I took the coice to following Matthews’ wheel into the final 500 meters, and I got a bit boxed in from the left-hand side as I sought for my sprinting distance. I thought Matthews would be stronger into such a kick, and once I got past his wheel, the rivals in front of me, super fast guys like Sagan and Alaphilippe, were impossible to overtake. [Asked by journalists about the GC] The dark horse? Seriously, I can’t be a dark horse after 14 years as a pro. And I don’t make any conclusions out of this third place. We’re all behind Nairo.”