Vuelta a Andalucía (st. 3)
Valverde back into GC lead in Andalucía after 2nd place in exciting TT; now seats only 1" ahead of Contador overall with two days to go in the race – which could bring Spaniard his 100th win as pro
The 2017 Vuelta a Andalucía was a matter of very few seconds before Friday's decisive TT in Lucena, and the race becomes even closer after the demanding, fast12km stage three in the Ruta del Sol. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), 2nd in the stage at just 0"9 from Belgium's Victor Campenaerts (TLJ), gets back into the lead of the race with only one second over Alberto Contador (TFS) and six before Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), third into a provisional podium which could finish the same at the end of a weekend with two not-so-tough stages.
Valverde, covering his first time trial of the 2017 season today, completed a sensational performance into a course with plenty of climbing in its first part, where he could distance all of his rivals to later resist against the progressive pacing from Contador and Pinot, all taking advantage from Ion Izagirre's crash, which left the former Blue out of GC contention. Valverde came less than a second short for what would have been his 100th success as a pro cyclist, a milestone he might reach on Sunday should he conquer overall honours in the Andalusian race.
Saturday will bring Valverde and the Movistar Team's first 'exam' before claiming their title, with a 180km journey from La Campana to Sevilla that includes some little climbs halfway through, in a day nevertheless looking destined to a bunch sprint.
Alejandro Valverde: "The two days coming now should be easier than the three we've covered so far. I was keeping in my mind that the man in red at the end of today's TT was all but certain to win overall, but Alberto is now sitting only one second behind, Sunday's ride could be a wet one… We should wait before saying this has been won. I've got a great team by my side and we must keep attentive because, even though the routes don't seem to be difficult, things can change in an instant.
"For the moment, we're back in the lead and we've reached it into a time trial, which is massive for me. I felt quite comfortable over the course, it suited me well. Already this morning I was feeling well over it, and it proved to be right in the afternoon. I had decided to go full gas into the first half of the race, which was better for my conditions, and I tried to use my energy well over the second part, so I could at least be close to the leader's jersey.
"One second is nothing. You can't feel calm, even less so with Alberto Contador behind you. He's a man of strategy and proved to be really strong today, too. Before we get to the finish on Sunday, the race is not won at all. I'm showing I'm dong well over every course: I won stage one, took 3rd yesterday, came incredibly close to winning today…
"Obviously, the 100th victory I seemingly will get tomorrow makes me really happy, but the most important thing for me is that I'm close to turning 37 and I'm feeling as strong, or even stronger, than prior. That helps me keep the same motivation when I go training, and it makes sure I can still make my fans happy. I feel more secure about what I can do, I feel no pressure as I've won many things in my career – it all makes it easier."
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport