Vuelta a España (st. 7) / Tour du Poitou-Charentes (finale)
Good finish by the Spanish superstar against more powerful sprinters on stage seven of the Vuelta a España, with plenty of attacks and a late crash miraculoulsly saved by Nairo Quintana. Oliveira claims GC podium in Poitou-Charentes
Can this Vuelta a España get any harder?! After 17,000m of combined elevation gain in barely seven days, Friday’s finish in Puebla de Sanabria again offered chances to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) as the whole peloton struggled on its 158km journey between Maceda and the lakeside roads in Zamora. A strong pull by Astana into the long approach to the Padornelo (Cat-3) anticipated an attack by Dario Cataldo and the subsequent move, between the pursuit group behind the Italian, from Luis León Sánchez. The Spaniard, joined by Simon Clarke (CDT) into a two-man move, was caught with only less than 200 meters to go.
The Movistar Team, who sought the final splits with José Joaquín Rojas and Rubén Fernández before starting to push at the front to abort the duo’s adventure with Imanol Erviti, set Rojas to lead Valverde out into an uphill sprint where he the expert Murcian was only beaten by Vangenechten (IAM, 1st) and future team-mate Daniele Bennati (TNK, 2nd). Behind, a crash into a turn next to a bridge in the final kilometer involved Contador (TNK) and nearly caught Nairo Quintana, who incredibly came through unscathed to retain his 4th spot overall (+38”). Bala stays in 2nd place, 24" behind Darwin Atapuma (BMC) after his four-second bonus over the line.
The Vuelta will finally enter the real mountains on Saturday, as stage eight finishes atop La Camperona (Cat-2) and its slopes ramping up to 25%… after more than 170km completely flat from the start in Villalpando. Tomorrow’s finish at the Sabero valley will precede two trascendental, traditional mountain-top arrivals in Asturias: Naranco (Sunday) and Lagos de Covadonga (Monday).
Alejandro Valverde: “We got safely through another difficult day. Sad about not winning? Not really much. I wasn’t expecting to contest the stage, but when you’re racing for GC, you’ve got to keep a good position to avoid crashes, all the nerves at the front… and being there, I couldn’t help but try it. I asked Rojas to lead me out, he set me up perfectly and I could take third into a finish with stronger guys than me, those more suited to slightly uphill finish after top speeds. It might have seemed like a calm stage before the finale, but we all struggled a lot, especially when Astana started picking up the pace before the climb. We didn’t know what their plan would be, yet Cataldo and Luisle did a fantastic job, especially Sánchez. I’ve got to congratulate my fellow countryman because he was so close to winning. Those curves in the final kilometer made for a dangerous finish, but I didn’t realize they had crashed behind. Actually, Contador was riding by my side with 700m to go, as he told Bennati: ‘Go for the volata.’ I don’t know how he got to crash. Our strategy for the weekend? Just one: going day by day, one pedal stroke at a time.”
Poitou-Charentes: Oliveira’s serious behaviour rewarded with GC podium
In turn, the fantastic week by Nelson Oliveira (Movistar Team) ended up with a third-place finish in the 30th Tour du Poitou-Charentes, closed this Friday with a 171km road stage to Poitiers, where Colbrelli (BAR) took the sprint win while local Sylvain Chavanel (DEN) claimed overall honours. The Portuguese rider confirmed his 3rd place from the eve’s ITT by resisting with the top guns (14th) into a difficult circuit around the Côte de la Barre. The four-time national TT champion adds another good result to a brilliant summer that included his national title, a great Tour de France and an excellent performance in the Olympics’ TT (8th).