Victory in foggy Queen stage in Pyrenees
Spaniard beats Navarro (COF), Elissonde (SKY) at Les Monts d’Olmes after excellent Movistar teamwork puts Bala into GC lead in France, with only one stage remaining.
Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar Team measured their efforts to perfection at the Queen stage of the 2018 Route d’Occitanie -198km with five climbs towards Les Monts d’Olmes (Cat-1)-, securing the Spaniard’s tenth victory of the season, full of confidence and strength in the decisive phase of a very demanding trek in the Pyrenees.
‘Bala’ was very well protected by his five team-mates, who managed themselves brilliantly despite being one man down, as Dayer Quintana abandoned before the halfway point of the race due to stomach problems. Eduardo Sepúlveda and Rubén Fernández sought for the early breaks and later put themselves in service for their team leader, together with Barbero, Bico and Pedrero. At the final ascents to Montségur (Cat-2) and Olmes, some impressive turns from Sepúlveda and an ever-so-recovered Fernández destroyed the GC group and left only three candidates to the day’s win and the GC lead: Elissonde (SKY), Navarro (COF) and Valverde. Despite the Frenchman’s numerous attempts to break Alejandro’s pace, the Spanish superstar did not have any problems to follow him and sprint to the win into the final meters.
Valverde (118 pro wins) now wears the orange jersey, with a six-second lead before a very lumpy final stage on Sunday -192km to Cazouls-lès-Béziers, with the Pic de Nore (Cat-1) midway through the route-, where the Movistar Team will fight to take ‘Bala’ to one of very few mountainous stagerace GC wins he still doesn’t have in his palmarès.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“It’s been a very great victory, well deserved by the entire squad. I want to thank them because their job today was phenomenal, from start to finish. They put on an impressive acceleration into the final two climbs, left a very reduced group at the front and after that, it was my task to bring the victory home, take over the GC lead and start thinking about what’s coming tomorrow.”
“It was a very demanding stage, and even if the weather conditions were really good for most of it, the final section was foggy and slightly rainy, and made for dangerous descents – but it really wasn’t that big of a problem. At the final split with Navarro and Elissonde, I was able to stay calm and follow their moves without much suffering – we were going on the attack in the beginning, but later understood it was better to cooperate, at least before the final slopes. They tried to drop me back into the final section because they knew I would be faster into a sprint, but I was able to keep their pace and grab the win.
“Sunday’s stage will be a difficult one, where we’ll have to work really hard to keep this jersey with us. You’ll need a great squad by your side, and luckily, the boys have proven to be doing well. For the time being, we’re really happy with this stage win and the GC lead. I’m personally glad to see I’m doing well, confident for tomorrow and also for what will be coming in July.”
Picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport / Colin Flockton