Vuelta a España (st. 4)
Valverde -now 4th overall-, Quintana (8th) keep up with top contenders’ pace in high-paced Alfacar climb, won by King (DDD); Yates (MTS) and Buchmann (BOH) gain time as Kwiatkowski (SKY) remains in red.
The climb towards Alfacar (Cat-1; 12km at 5.4% avg. grad.), destined to be a first minor exchanged of blows between the main contenders for the 2018 Vuelta a España title, offered way more moves, differences and selection than expected. A strong pace change from LottoNLJumbo forced the Movistar Team’s two biggest references, Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana, to put all their energy into a final ascent where Simon Yates (MTS) and Emanuel Buchmann (BOH) gained over twenty seconds over the other top guns.
Alejandro Valverde was the first man to try and react to Yates’s move, firstly into a counter-attack then pushing at the front of a 15-rider group where Nairo Quintana did not lose sight of the Spaniard’s wheel. Despite a late attack from Miguel Ángel López (AST) and Valverde’s jump into the sprint, Buchmann and Yates got up to second and third overall as Alejandro now sits in fourth -12″ behind Kwiatkowski (SKY), two seconds less thanks to his sprint- and Quintana now becomes 8th, 33″ behind the Polish champion.
The Vuelta will now tackle another complicated finish towards Roquetas de Mar (188km) on Wednesday, with lots of ups and downs from the start and the Marchal ascent (Cat-2) just 26 kilometers from the finish, only the last ten on flat roads following a long descent to the coast.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a really, really fast climb, where we did everything we could. When Yates attacked, we had to stay focused and not let him gain too much time. I tried to attack so I could lead the group back to his wheel, and when I was caught, I chose to keep pushing for a big so Nairo didn’t lose too much ground. After that, I just had to stay with them and limit losses. There’s so much left in this race still, and we’re entirely in contention, so it’s all fine for now.”