Spaniard takes big efforts in Cuenca, ends up only beaten by Mohoric (UAD) and Poljanski (BOH) after great work by Carapaz for him in the break. Movistar now leads team GC in Vuelta, as Castroviejo (2nd) takes overall podium finish in Poitou
Misfortune with Carlos Betancur's withdrawal due to his injuries on Thursday's stage did not diminish at all the tenacity and ambition of the Movistar Team in the 2017 Vuelta a España. José Joaquín Rojas and Richard Carapaz were the ones leading the way for the Blues at the longest stage of this year's race -207km from Llíria to Cuenca- and were really close to bring Eusebio Unzué's group what would have been the most deserved victory of all.
A move by Alexis Gougeard (ALM) into the first passage through the city forced Carapaz to pull and keep the Frenchman close, so as to allow a solid Rojas making the strongest group at the slopes of the Castillo. However, and as a four-man lead group including the Spaniard was opening a gap, a move by Matej Mohoric (UAD) into the ups-and-downs prior to the final descent got the better of José Joaquín, as well as De Gendt (LTS) and Poljanski (BOH), who couldn't bring him back. Poljanski would beat Rojas for 2nd.
The second third-place finish in the Vuelta for the Movistar riders does not dishearten at all the Blues, which will continue to seek for success at the weekend's consecutive 'wall' finishes in the Alicante province: the Xorret de Catí on Saturday (199km) and the Puig de Llorença / Cumbre del Sol in Benitatxell on Sunday. The Spanish outfit will start they duo of mountain finishes on top of the team GC, following their good efforts today.
José Joaquín Rojas: "It's obviously sad to be missing out by so very few seconds, but when one who's stronger than you takes the win, you can't do anything but congratulate him – Mohoric was the best on course today. He already attacked before the hardest part of the climb, and I tried to follow him because I knew he was the wheel to follow. I could catch him, but at the top I was really cooked, had to take some air at the turns later on and the other ones did not cooperation. It was just a moment's hesitation, but it was enough for him to open a gap and win, despite the fact that we got on well with each other after realizing the danger of that move.
"It makes you angry, because the whole team deserves some joy after such a bad strike we're going through. I'm feeling great, the Vuelta is only one week old and with these legs we should be able to fight for some more days – it was just that we found a strong rival today. The race is not over, and we'll keep on fighting because we deserve a stage more than anyone else."
Poitou-Charentes: Castroviejo seals overall podium finish
Spaniard Carlos Barbero (6th) was in turn the best finisher from the Movistar Team at a demanding final stage in the Tour du Poitou-Charentes (158km), featuring three laps around the 10% Côte de Buxerolles. Four from the Blues –Bennati, Castroviejo and Anacona as well as the Burgos-based sprinter- made it into a decimated peloton, only 40 members, where Marc Sarreau (FDJ) took the day's honours as Mads Pedersen (SKY) confirmed his GC win, ahead of 'Castro' (2nd). Winner Anacona also came close to a top-ten finish in 12th spot.