Spaniard claims sensational victory, the Movistar Team's 11th of the 2017 season, after immense Lo Port climb -with huge support from Marc Soler (4th)- to reach top of GC in Volta, just two days from the end of the race
Alejandro Valverde was again unstoppable on the Cat-1 climb of Lo Port, end of stage five in the Volta a Catalunya. The Movistar Team's GC hope got back to the race leader on Friday, three days after being neglected the jersey following a controversional, collective one-minute penalty after Banyoles' team time trial. His win atop La Molina on Wednesday was the prelude of a sensational second victory in three days –his 5th of the season, the 102nd of his pro career– and the crown of a superb Movistar team-work –despite losing a man, as Jonathan Castroviejo fell sick and was DNS in the morning– all over the stage.
Windy roads before the last climb propelled the lads directed by José Luis Arrieta and José Luis Laguía to break the peloton into four echelons through the lands of the Ebro delta, before Rubén Fernández and, most notably, a stellar Marc Soler took over into the climb. It was the 23-year-old Catalan climber who again showed his impressive talent to lead a five-man elite group –alongside Valverde, Contador, Froome and Adam Yates– that covered the last four kilometers together. Just before the 'flamme rouge', 'Bala' made his decisive move to leave all rivals behind and don the 'blanc-i-verd' jersey over the podium.
The Movistar Team will now have to defend respective 21" and 47" gaps with Valverde against Froome and Contador –Soler sits 4th in the GC–. Two stages are remaining, starting with Saturday's lumpy roads between Tortosa and Reus, which include the Cat-1 La Mussara ascent, 40km from the end.
Alejandro Valverde: "It was a spectacular day for both myself and the team, I'm so glad I could finish this off. It was an amazing day, all thanks to my team-mates. We kept full focus in the dangerous part of the stage, exposed to the wind, and all over the stage I had different team-mates surrounding me. At the final climb, Rubén Fernández and Marc Soler did a sensational job for me. From the very foot of the climb I was feeling like I had good legs, and I asked them to go on full steam for as long as they could. At the final two kilometers, I sought for my distance and launched the move with a pace I could hold until the line.
"It's a victory and a leader's jersey really special, because of everything that happened during the last few days. Things like those, outside the racing itself, are not ones that we like. In the end, we managed to get people excited and happy about our racing, and that's what counts. Soler? It's a really talented boy, you all could see it. He won the Tour de l'Avenir, excelled into the mountains prior, but seeing how strong he rode this week, I can tell this to you: he's got whatever he wants to win in his legs."
E3 Harelbeke: No fractures for Dayer Quintana after scary crash
Over on Flemish soil, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) claimed victory on the 60th E3 Harelbeke (UCI WorldTour), as the Movistar Team's Carlos Barbero and Sütterlin completed the race inside the main peloton, two minutes behind the Olympic champion. More adverse news had came earlier as Dayer Quintana suffered a crash halfway through the 203km course over the hills and cobbles of Belgium, one that put him out of the race and heading into a hospital for checkups. Despite fifteen stitches being put on his right hand, just next to the wrist, and three on his little finger, no fractures or serious injuries were found on the 24-year-old from Boyacá, who also sustained several bruises to his face.
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport