2nd place at Pollença
Movistar Team leader a step short for maiden 2017 success in Mallorca Challenge; big teamwork by Blues into Trofeo Andratx – Mirador d'Es Colomer
He's getting close to his first 100 victories as a professional rider -missing only three at the date this article was published-, yet Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) remains committed to showing that age is just a number. The Spanish superstar was only one step short to claiming the Blues' maiden success of 2017, crowning a very consistent display by a hard-working telephone squad all over the 158km stage three in the Challenge Mallorca, entirely under control from the Jaimerena / Laguía-led outfit.
Taking the lead of the bunch from the opening chain of climbs and most notably from the foot of the Puig Major, the seven Movistar team-mates supporting 'Bala' created selection in the field and prevented attacks from happening into the ascent. It was Firsanov (GAZ), through most of the downhill, and the Sky duo Dibben-Knees, through the shoreline and before the last 3km uphill, which forced the Movistar Team to pick up the pace and avoid any surprises.
1.5km from the end, Wellens (LTS) launched a strong attack from the short leading group. Despite attempts from Kiryienka (SKY) and Belda (BUR) to bridge back against strong head winds, it was only Bala who was able to reduce the gap created by the Belgian, pushing hard and breaking the group for good. The man from Murcia came few meters short to complete the feat.
It's the second near miss for Eusebio Unzué's squad so far in 2017 -Gorka Izagirre also finished 2nd at the first hilltop finish in the Tour Down Under-, proving to be as ready as ever into a Challenge that will end up tomorrow with a sprinter's stage towards Palma (162km).
Alejandro Valverde: "Obviously it's always sad to come close to a victory, especially when it could be the first one this year, but I'm satisfied to see my legs rolling well. I was really close to chase Wellens down. When he went off the front, I was a bit behind into the group, trying to get some cover because the head winds were so strong. I tried to jump across, but I was taking the whole group on my slipstream. Then, with 600 meters to go, I had no choice but pushing on full steam and start closing the gap, but it was a bit too late. As I said before, my thoughts from the last two days remain optimistic – it's all gone well, and I came close to victory here, which always keeps morale high."