Critérium du Dauphiné (st. 4)
Movistar Team finishes just 24" behind Richie Porte (BMC),12" off Tony Martin (KAT); beats Contador, Froome and many GC contenders; and jumps onto the provisional GC podium in Dauphiné before the final three mountain stages
The best season ever for Alejandro Valverde as a pro cyclist continues to happen in good part thanks to his impressive TT performances. After cementing his overall victories in both Andalucía and País Vasco after respective second-place finishes in time trials, the marvel from Murcia took a fantastic 3rd at Wednesday's Critérium du Dauphiné ITT (23.5km -23,5 km entre La Tour-du-Pin y Bourgoin-Jallieu-. The brilliance of today's ride is confirmed by the only rivals he couldn't beat today: two big specialists in Australian Richie Porte (BMC) and multiple world time trial champion Tony Martin (KAT), whom he came twenty-four and twelve seconds short of, respectively.
After clocking a solid 5th fastest through the intermediate check (12km), 20" behind the German and 18" after the Tasmanian -with Froome (SKY) also 8" quicker-, Valverde profited from a long, tough slope to Demptézieu in the second part of the parcours to open terrain on most of his GC rivals: he put 11" on Contador (TFS) and 13" over Froome (SKY) at the finish, reaching the 3rd place overall in the process. De Gendt (LTS) still wears yellow, with 27" on Porte (2nd) and 54" on 'Bala'.
The telephone squad's impressive level in this TT was rounded off by two young hopefuls: Jasha Sütterlin, whose magnificent 6th place in the day was a provisional 3rd for most of the day -only 20" behind Martin-, and Jesús Herrada, who took 11th today and now sits 8th in the GC standings.
Sprinters will fight for success again at Mâcon on Thursday, before the big mountains in the Dauphiné finally start off on Friday with the Mont du Chat (HC; 8.7km at 10.3% avg.), just 15km from the finish on stage six in La Motte-Servolex. The squad directed by Chente and Laguía will try to continue keeping Valverde protected to improve his already promising start in the Alpine race.
Alejandro Valverde (courtesy Patrick Fletcher @ Cyclingnews): “I’m pretty happy with that. It was a demanding time trial. It confirms once again my time trialling is strong – all the time trials that I’ve done this year have been very good. To be ahead of someone like Froome is pretty big, that’s for sure. Froome has always been better than me in time trials, and not just by 30 seconds, but more like a minute or more, so to be above him here, it’s a great outcome for me. The truth is that the legs responded pretty well today. The first day I noted the lack of racing, but with the second and third days I was back into the flow of things, and today I’ve managed to pull out a pretty decent time trial. I’m happy with today, but now come the hard stages. We have to see how the rivals are climbing, and how I’m climbing after the training I’ve done at altitude.”
Picture (c): Luca Bettini / BettiniPhoto.net