Route d'Occitanie (st. 3)
World Champion from Movistar Team remains in GC lead at Occitanie with just one stage remaining, making up crucial gap against Sosa (INS), Urán (EF1) into tough final 2km uphill.
Iván Sosa (INS) took a prestigious victory at Saturday’s Queen stage of the 2019 Route d’Occitanie, a 173km mountain trek from Arreau to the top of the Hospice de France (Cat-1) with the tough previous climb of Lançon (Cat-2), Hourquette d’Ancizan (Cat-1) and the Port de Balès (Cat-1). A success where he preceded Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team), still in the lead of a race where he had to give it all to conserve the orange jersey into a very difficult finish.
José Joaquín Rojas represented the Blues into a much-contested early break, which saw some of its members, such as Óscar Rodríguez (EUS; 4th at the finish), resisting ahead of the peloton until Balès. At that penultimate climb, an attack from Pavel Sivakov (INS; just 44″ off in the GC) forced the Blues to work hard, with Prades, Valls and an exceptional Antonio Pedrero keeping the gap from increasing to over one minute -Arcas and Castrillo had already kept control of the early moves-.
After all favourites remained together until the final 2km of the Hospice de France climb, an attack by Sosa together with Rigoberto Urán (EF1) made Valverde squeeze ever bit of energy he had left. The Spaniard controlled his pace, left the two leaders gain twelve seconds and picked up the pace later on to reach them down and finish in 2nd place. It’s now 8″ between the Murcia native and Sosa before a rolling circuit on Sunday’s showdown around Clermont-Pouyguillès (155km).
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“It wasn’t easy by any means – it’s never easy in a cycle race. Sosa and Urán were really strong, but Chente had insisted to me a lot that the final part of the climb was so difficult. We knew that the last 800 meters were so steep, with even a 400m slope at 13%, and when I saw them jumping from too far away I thought to myself: ‘Oof, gonna be hard keeping that pace until the end.’ I just rode on my own pace for a little bit, then upped it to my maximum to try and reach them back. I trusted my legs; I knew it wouldn’t be easy with such strng rivals, but I measured my speed and wattage over those slopes and knew that I shouldn’t be climbing faster if I wanted to hold on to them at the very end.
“Another breakaway tomorrow like last year? No, I don’t think I’ll try. It’s a very different course to last year’s. It’s a circuit, with some tough slopes, but it is nowhere near the route we tackled into that break. We’ll just try to defend this jersey and pay back the team-mates after these three days of hard work. Hats off to Sosa: he really deserves that win. He’s a really talented young guy and I’m happy for him.”
Cover picture (c): Aubin Lipke / La Route d’Occitanie