Following Wednesday's victory, Valverde takes 3rd after progressing through Peña del Águila climb; sits now 5" behind Contador (TFS) overall in eve of decisive 12km ITT. Fine 7th by Castroviejo in Fóia
Frenchman Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) notched up the win on Thursday's stage two of the 63rd Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía after overcoming Alberto Contador (TFS) into the final meters of the Cat-1 Peña del Águila ascent. The Spaniard now leads as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Tram) made up ground from a less-than-optimal counterattack to finish in 3rd place.
Very well protected by his team-mares Arcas, Anacona Sutherland and Gorka Izagirre, as well as Víctor De la Parte and a good Marc Soler in the beginning of the last 5k uphill, 'Bala' and his Movistar Team remained calm as Tim Wellens (LTS) launcbed a courageous attack, 50km from tne line, to go for the stage win from tbe early break. The controlled pace by TFS, SKY and CDT caught tbe Belgian's attempt before Contador's attack, 3km before the finish, was initially followed by Valverde, the Murcian soon forced to go on his own pace.
Alejandro kept catching elements through the final slopes -Izagirre (TBM), Rosa, Landa (both SKY) and even seemed like he had a realistic shot at the day's win, neglected only by Pinot's last acceleration. The GC remains wide open, with eight riders within 26 seconds, before a demanding 12km ITT in Lucena all but decides the final outcome on Friday, the weekend's fractions seemingly destined to sprinters.
Alejandro Valverde: “Alberto's acceleration was really strong, and I had to set my own rhythm to keep up. I went stronger through the last part of the ascent and it ended up being a good recovery. I'm happy with the race so far – a win and a third place, remaining close to the GC lead, can't complain. Tomorrow's time trial will be a tough one, let's see how we react to those slopes all over the course. The riders ahead of me in the overall standings are strong specialists, so it will be hard to make up ground."
Algarve: Castroviejo and a fine Pedrero into stage contention
After Fernando Gaviria's success in Lagos on Wednesday, Dan Martin (QST) prolonged his team's streak at the first mountain-top finish of the 43rd Volta ao Algarve, 183km from Lagoa to Fóia -the highest point of the region in the Serra de Monchique-. Even though absent from the leading trio including Roglic (TLJ, 2nd) and Kwiatkowski (SKY, 3rd), the Movistar Team directed by José Luis Jaimerena notably featured at a second echelon, with Jonathan Castroviejo and a remarkable Antonio Pedrero.
While 2nd-year pro Pedrero sticked to that second group until the last two kilometers, finishing 14th at 1'15", 'Castro' remained committed to bridging the gap to the front group, with several attacks that ultimately granted a fine 7th spot, 35" behind Martin. A promising performance from the European TT champion, his arguably best chance for a stage win this week coming up next as a 18km ITT is covered around the Fortaleza de Sagres on Friday.
Picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport