Vuelta a España (st. 19)
Spaniard from Movistar Team goes through most difficult day in La Vuelta so far this year, concedes more than 1′ with solid Simon Yates (MTS), 2nd behind day’s winner Pinot (GFC).
The Movistar Team once again proved the attitud and willingness it takes to turn things around in the 2018 Vuelta a España during the first of two deciders in Andorra -154km finishing atop the Coll de La Rabassa (Cat-1)-, yet their strong gamble was faced with corageous, strong opposition from race leader Simon Yates (MTS), the top finisher from the race contenders on stage 19.
The Telefónica-backed squad, brilliantly led out by Bennati, Erviti, Amador and Oliveira until the passage through the Andorran border -even creating some echelons in the bunch, a brief split which got Yates and Steven Kruijswijk (TLJ) out of position-, put Winner Anacona into the lead of the group before launching Nairo Quintana on the attack with 12km remaining. The Cóndor’s move was, nevertheless, neutralized by Yates himself, the Briton chasing down Quintana’s lead group -which featured Kruijswijk and Thibaut Pinot (GFC)- and forced the Colombian to drop back to Valverde’s group, where a notable Richard Carapaz was pulling hard.
The wear and tear from the day’s racing and the altitude prevented Valverde from cutting back the gaps until the very last slope, where Alejandro finished in 8th place -1’12” behind stage winner Pinot- and conserved his second place overall by 20″ over Kruijswijk. ‘Bala’ sits now 1’38” behind Yates, with Quintana (6th) four minutes down, before the brutal 97km -with six categorized ascents- that will decide the race at La Gallina on Saturday.
Alejandro Valverde: “It was a very difficult day for me. We went out to try and win this one, but sometimes you win and some other you don’t. The rivals were simply stronger than me; it is what it is, you’ve got to accept it. We struggled, we lost some seconds, but we’re still in 2nd place, we’re still in contention, and that’s what matters in the end. When Yates attacked, I tried to stay behind Carapaz to see if it was possible for Richard to close that gap. However, it turned out too fast for the two of us, two difficult. Despite the help from Nairo, I ended up cracking a little bit at the end. Sadly, your body doesn’t respond always like you want it to. It’s obvious that the final red jersey is further for us now than it was this morning, but we won’t settle. Saturday’s is a stage where anything can happen: you can win, you can lose even more time – it’s another tough day.”
Nairo Quintana: “We had to give it a try at the very least. We spent all energy that we had for today, but regrettably, the result wasn’t what we expected. Our plan was to try and put the leader and his team into difficulty, while staying with Alejandro. We had talked through it before and during the stage, we carried out our plan. However, once Yates attacked and opened that gap, I waited to support him and keeping Yates from taking a bigger advantage. There’s still tomorrow. It was really demanding for our bodies today and surely many riders who aren’t so close on the GC will do their best to improve tomorrow. It will be an interesting stage – I don’t know if we will see any riders cracking hard, but there’s long climbs, huge elevation gains. One who has a strong team-mate by his side will try to use him, but otherwise, you’ve got to give your 100%, because it all comes down to that stage.”