Vuelta a España (et. 7)
Spaniard from Movistar Team back to 2nd overall after taking 6″ of combined bonus in difficult finale; Nairo Quintana (8th in GC) also into main group after late bike swap with Carapaz.
The demanding, twisty approach to Pozo Alcón, end of stage seven of the 2018 Vuelta a España in the Jaén province, again surprised some of the main GC contenders and proved the strong overall level by the Movistar Team, which played its cards and protected its leaders while also seeking for the day’s glory with Alejandro Valverde.
After huge pressure and great control at the front by Oliveira, Bennati, Erviti, Amador and Anacona, ‘Bala’ took 3rd place, only beaten at the group sprint by Peter Sagan (BOH) while the two were anticipated by Tony Gallopin (ALM), who jumped away into the last 3km to counter a previous move from Jesús Herrada (COF). Before that, the lumpy climbs to the Alto de Ceal (Cat-3) and the ‘muro’ of Hinojares saw several attacks from top guns, several crashes -the most serious affecting Michal Kwiatkowski (SKY), who conceded more than 20″ with the GC group over the line- and some incidents which also affected Nairo Quintana.
The Colombian had to cover the final 10km with Richard Carapaz’s bike, yet still finished into the main peloton to keep his 8th spot overall, as Valverde jumps to 2nd after a 4″ bonus at the finish and a 2″ one into the intermediate sprint in Hinojares. The marvel from Murcia, now leader of both Points and Combined classifications, will fight to remain in that place with the rest of the Movistar Team at Saturday’s 195km stage eight to Almadén, prior to Sunday’s La Covatilla mountain-top finish.
Alejandro Valverde: “The best conclusion from today’s stage is that we didn’t experience any major setbacks, because today’s finish, as everyone could see, was pretty difficult. The roads were pretty bad in general, even if the last few kilometers were of better condition. At one of the descents we went from a lot of patches on the road to better tarmac, people got a bit too enthusiastic, someone took too many risks and there was a crash. A Sky rider went down, three others also fell down after him and me – I was in fifth place in that moment – I was just lucky not to fall in that place. After that, I decided to sort of respect our rivals, didn’t want to attack them as they were getting back on the bike, I just tried to get the bonus seconds and wait for the line. It’s sad to see someone like Kwiatkowski getting out of direct contention for such a reason, it’s never nice when you’re battling against someone and such things happen.
“All in all, it was a really tough route; I had already been told about this finale, but it turned out to be more difficult than I expected. Days like these will take its toll on the bunch, that pays off at the end. I felt great, in good form. I’m happy with the result, even if Sagan overtook me in the sprint. I really didn’t think he was there, I only saw he was into our group when he bested me at the sprint. Gallopin? Honestly, I can’t control all attacks, that has to be clear. The good thing is, I got a 2″ bonus at the intermediate sprint, 4″ at the finish – it was a good day in that respect, and we hope to continue up there in the standings. Contesting the GC? We must wait. It’s too long of a race yet. Let’s go day by day.”
Nairo Quintana: “I had a puncture in the finale, but the team responded really well, with good attention. Richard waited for me, gave me his bike and I could finish with Alejandro. It was sad not being able to take that win with Alejandro; I was trying to close that gap with Herrada, trying to make up some terrain by entering that counter attack, trying to get everyone together so we ended up with a sprint. The most important thing is that we didn’t lose time. We have to just get through tomorrow’s stage and Sunday will be quite different, a day which suits us well. I’m feeling OK. The first days of the race were not so good for me, because of the heat, but I’m feeling good at the moment.”
- 01 Tony Gallopin AG2R La Mondiale 4h18'20"
- 02 Peter Sagan Bora-Hansgrohe +5"
- 03 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team "
- 26 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team "
- 53 Winner Anacona Movistar Team +1'48"
- 73 Nelson Oliveira Movistar Team +7'49"
- 74 Richard Carapaz Movistar Team +7'52"
- 75 Andrey Amador Movistar Team "
- 151 Imanol Erviti Movistar Team +15'11"
- 157 Daniele Bennati Movistar Team "
- 01 Rudy Molard Groupama-FDJ 26h44'40"
- 02 Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team +47"
- 03 Emanuel Buchmann Bora-Hansgrohe +48"
- 08 Nairo Quintana Movistar Team +1'14"
- 38 Richard Carapaz Movistar Team +11'46"
- 49 Winner Anacona Movistar Team +15'20"
- 73 Andrey Amador Movistar Team +26'39"
- 77 Nelson Oliveira Movistar Team +27'56"
- 122 Imanol Erviti Movistar Team +50'57"
- 138 Daniele Bennati Movistar Team +55'28"