Glorious Catalunya for Blues
Valverde rounds off second Catalunya GC success with third stage win in Barcelona; Soler takes magnificent 3rd overall, Blues finish as best team in a race they owned for the entire week
Alejandro Valverde crowned its overall victory in the 97th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya with a third stage victory in Barcelona. 'Bala' claimed honours at the 138km course, with eight laps of the famous Montjuïc mountain, to again respond to perfect Movistar team-work. Dan Martin's (QST) acceleration into the final kilometers encouraged the man from Murcia to anticipate a selected field's sprint and complete a week's exhibition victorious on the line –his 7th win of 2017, the 104th of his pro career–.
The Movistar Team rounded off an excellent week that saw the Blues claiming all four main classifications of the first Spanish WorldTour race of the season, putting up their 2017 victory tally to 13 in the process. With the only exceptions of Alberto Contador (TFS), 2nd overall, and Pierre Rolland (CDT), winner of the intermediate sprints' classification, the telephone squad's members were the only to step onto the final podium: Valverde won the GC and the KOM classification; Marc Soler finished 3rd as best Young Rider; and the Movistar riders were deservedly proclaimed the best squad in the race.
Valverde's success is his second in the Volta a Catalunya after winning the 2009 race, and marks the eighth overall triumph for Eusebio Unzué's organization, with Indurain ('88, '91, '92), Chava Jiménez ('00), Karpets ('07) and Nairo Quintana (2016). Soler confirms his promising future, after signs of character with last year's Route du Sud queen stage victory and this month's third-place finish at the final stage of Paris-Nice.
Alejandro Valverde: “The legs felt really good after such a difficult race as in Saturday, when we had to go through some difficult climbs at a very high pace, under the rain and with much cold. It was all completely different today, with pleasant weather, a short stage and – just like throughour the whole week – a magnificent job from my team-mates to control that 22-rider early break, later chased down by the other teams. At that final lap, I knew Martin would be jumping away at that point next to the Stadium, because he had done so in the past. I just went after him – though it took a lot for me to close the gap, when he stopped I could see that our advantage was decent. Since it wasn't the best cooperation between us two, we ended up starting that downhill sprint at a very much slower speed than the pursuit group. I just, barely managed to win the stage.
"To be honest, I wasn't expecting to get these results. I knew I was in good condition leading up to this race, and those final training rides with Rojas and my team-mates in Andorra the week prior did good on me, but you had to keep in mind that I had spent a whole month without racing, since the Vuelta a Andalucía, while some other rivals like Alberto had a better racing pace. My plan was to go day-by-day, without setting my sights on the bigger goals, but my legs got better and better through the race, even more so today. The Volta is a race that I really like, and every time I take the start here is with an aim to do things well. My five team-mates were superb, and I don't want to forget about Castroviejo and Amador, who had to abandon with illness yet still did great while they could. We proved we were the strongest team at the TTT, and I tried to continue chasing victories to repay the whole squad after their fantastic effort on Tuesday and ever since."
Marc Soler: “I wasn't expecting this result at all. My plan here was supporting Alejandro so he could win the Volta. I knew I was in good form after my performance in Paris-Nice, but when you're young as I am, you always have some sort of doubt on your real level against such strong contenders. I got a podium finish that makes me extremely happy and surprised. Yates tried to take that third place away from me with his move into the last climb, but I was riding strong, I had so much support from the fans as I was riding at home, and even tried to counter his move and attack at the final slopes of the climb. We must remain calm, this doesn't change anything in my career. I'm not thinking about riding a Grand Tour straight away. I didn't race any during my first two pro seasons, and it doesn't matter. The important thing is that my progression is leading me to some big results, things are going well. We can't rush it – it's just a beautiful step in my career.”
Picture ©: Photo Gomez Sport