Luis León Sánchez (AST) beats World Champion from Movistar Team at famous Gran Vía finish, after 'Bala' launches big attack into Cresta del Gallo climb en route to another 2nd-place overall finish in his home race.
Alejandro Valverde’s (Movistar Team) streak of big results in the early season got extended once again at the 2019 Vuelta a Murcia, yet his first victory in the rainbow jersey will still have to wait. The World Champion was the strongest at the final climb of the race, the Cresta del Gallo (Cat-2), in the late phase of a 177km stage two including the passage through the Sierra Espuña. However, Luis León Sánchez (AST) had the legs to bring his countryman back and won the two-up sprint in the main Gran Vía avenue.
A ten-man breakaway, kept under strict control by AST, was replaced into the slopes of the Alto de Aledo (Cat-3) by a counter move where Carlos Barbero kept check with Valverde’s main rivals. The Collado Bermejo (Cat-1) left at the front of the race a 40-man group with five Movistar Team riders: Rafa Valls, José Joaquín Rojas plus Héctor Carretero and Rubén Fernández, who led ‘Bala’ out in the approach to the Cresta del Gallo before his race-contending attack.
— Movistar Team (@Movistar_Team) February 16, 2019
Alejandro claims no less than his tenth top-ten result (including two GC finishes, after his runner-up in Comunitat Valenciana) in just 10 days of racing, few days before heading to the Gulf for his maiden WorldTour stop of 2019: the UAE Tour, which starts on Sunday 24th.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde (video, in Spanish):
“Racing in my home region with this jersey on for the last two days already was a victory for me. Every race I take the start of has that special feeling in the rainbow colours. If I’m able to win after that, it’s even better, but I feel like we’re doing just fine at the moment. Runner-up in Valencia, 2nd again here – we’re still missing a victory, but I’m close, and my legs on the climbs feel really good, close or even better than the strongest guys uphill. At the Cresta del Gallo, I knew Luisle could make up some terrain against me in the downhill, but I had to give it a try with all I had. I jumped solo, though the gap I had built wasn’t enough for Luisle not to catch me. We had a couple of good turns together as he caught me, but later on, he started saving more energy because he still had the race leader behind from his own team and couldn’t continue to push. That energy I spent in the end helped him win. In the end, it’s one-two for our Murcia region, just like last year, in both the stage and overall – it’s good to have someone from here win and continue to show some of the best cyclists in the world are from Murcia.”
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport