Vuelta a Andalucía (st. 4)
Valverde -14th in Seville- and his six Movistar team-mates get safely through flattish stage four in the Ruta del Sol, will battle tomorrow under rain towards Coín for Bala's record-setting fifth overall win, which would be his 100th pro success
The flattest of the five stages in the 2017 Vuelta a Andalucía -a 179km trek between La Campana and Sevilla, over the sierras just north from the capital, yet with a finishing part along the plains- appeared to be a calm defense for Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team, which conserved the Spaniard's leader's jersey in the Ruta del Sol by 1" against Alberto Contador (TFS). Arcas, Soler, Anacona, De la Parte, Sutherland and Izagirre worked well together and close to the Murcia-born rider, who safely finished the day's bunch sprint in 14th place behind a dominant Bryan Coquard (DEN).
The biggest obstacle this Sunday for 'Bala' and his team should be the rain expected to fall over southern Spain, as the final stage -151km between Setenil de las Bodegas and Coín- covers two rated climbs in the beginning, as well as several other small ascents, yet softens at the end, with only the Alto de Jarapalos (Cat-3) notably featuring 15km from the finish.
Should he finish the final stage on top, Valverde will improve his already record-setting four GC victories in Andalucía, and reach the long-desired 100 pro wins. The six seconds between the 36-year-old Spaniard, Contador and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) promise to turn the showdown into a real cracker.
Alejandro Valverde: "We got through this day without any misfortune. Obviously we had some stresses with such a fast finish, but all in all, it was good. I've got only one second over Alberto, and we must stay attentive so as not to find any dreadful surprises along the way. It's going to be a really tough stage, with rain, difficult roads… full focus will be required.
"I would say the race is 80% won, but that 20% left for tomorrow is what really counts. Should we have expected good weather for tomorrow, most problems would be gone, but in such conditions, crashes, punctures and all that stuff can always appear. We must keep that in mind and not feel that anything is won before we cross that last finishing line."
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport