Magnificent, offensive ride from the Movistar Team leader gets unrewarded, 9th overall in Dauphiné as Fuglsang (AST) takes the jackpot in the decisive Plateau de Solaison ascent
It was a Critérium du Dauphiné worth a big applause for Alejandro Valverde and 'his' Movistar Team. The Spanish superstar spent the last three stages on the attack and was one of the main characters of an unforgettable final day in the Savoie climbs, the 115km stage eight from Albertville to the Plateau de Solaison (HC) seeing lots of attacks through its three other rated climbs. Despite Valverde not claiming the desired prize, he showed character and commitment in big loads, ending up 10th in the day and 9th in the overall standings.
'Bala' tried it without any respite. He was the first to launch an acceleration, less than 20km in, at the Col de Saisies (Cat-1), joining later on a further dig from Chris Froome (SKY). The Briton and the Spaniard were again together on the move into the flat leading up to the Col des Aravis (Cat-2), where the two insisted against a still-strong GC leader Richie Porte (BMC). And as the numerous breaks forming up after their moves -which featured Jesús Herrada and Richard Carapaz- were caught and a 22-rider group held the lead on the foot of the Colombière (Cat-1), went with his strongest offensive: a duo attack alongside Fabio Aru (AST), which built a 1'30" gap over the leader that proved decisive for his defeat.
The strong pursuit by Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY) at the helm of the Froome / Contador group behind 'Bala' – Porte had already been left alone behind – into the flat between the last two climbs ruined Valverde and Aru's chances. The Spanish, with no more energy left, had to stay content with a 3'30" gap to the day's winner, Jacob Fuglsang (AST), who waited for the last ascent to show his strong legs and beat Porte in the overall classification by just 10". Alejandro finished 4'08" back in the GC, bringing back, nonetheless, memories of what had been a magnificent first half of his season.
Tour de Suisse: Four MOV riders in elite group as crash takes 'Castro' out of contention
Over at the second stage of the Tour de Suisse, a four-lap circuit in and around Cham and over the lumpy Horben (Cat-2) ascent, Philippe Gilbert (QST) won a sprint between a selected group of almost 60 riders, shrunk by a pile-up in the run-in towards the foot of the last climb, 25 kilometers from the finish. Both race leader Rohan Dennis (BMC) and the Movistar Team's Jonathan Castroviejo were caught by the crash -no serious injuries for the Basque rider- and left out of the fight for the GC. Nelson Oliveira also had to put a foot on the ground and ended up out of the main split.
Four of the riders directed by José Luis Jaimerena were still able to make it inside the group: Dayer Quintana -quite active into the final ascent-, Carlos Betancur, Víctor de la Parte and Marc Soler, the Catalan youngster now best Blue rider in the GC: 12th at 16" from new race leader Stefan Küng (BMC). Monday should bring a clearer chance for the fastmen, at a slightly uphill finish in Bern (159km), before the race heads into the French-speaking zone of Switzerland for the first mountain-top finish on Tuesday.