Spaniard from Movistar Team takes solo victory after combative race from whole Movistar Team, opens victory account with Blues as Telefónica-backed squad reaches 18 wins in 2019.
Four and a half years after conquering the overall classification of the Tour of Oman, several crashes and injuries hampereing his performance ever since, Rafa Valls (Movistar Team) deservedly got back to winning ways on Thursday at the longest-standing classic in the Spanish pro calendar, the 96th Prueba Villafranca – Ordiziako Klasika -165.7km in Gipuzkoa, the Basque Country-.
The Cocentaina native from Alicante crowned a solid race from the whole Telefónica-backed squad. Lluís Mas did an excellent job to control the early break of seven riders, leading the peloton through the initial two (of five) laps around the Alto de Abaltzisketa. Héctor Carretero took care of the other Blues early in the race before the break was caught and Rubén Fernández started launchins several attacks, which put the tempo-making task on the shoulders of other teams. Three moves from the Spaniard plus another attack from Jaime Castrillo served as launchpad for Valls’ decisive move, 12km before the end, which got him a 20″ gap at the top fo the final Abaltzisketa climb. Antonio Pedrero kept every other move behind in check and secured a comfortable victory for Rafa.
Valls’ solo win, half a minute ahead of Pedrero’s (6th) group, increases to 18 the Movistar Team’s victory account in 2019, helping Rafa regain morale before a crucial late season for him.
REACTION / Rafa Valls:
“Notching up this victory is so special for me – people can’t imagine how much it’s worth for me. It hasn’t been an easy career for me so far with all those injuries, especially the last four years after my win in Oman. It’s always difficult to bounce back after a crash, but even more so when you aren’t able to take your head off the water, getting drowned with another injury when you seem to recover. It’s difficult to train and remain motivated in such situations, but today I was able to get some prize and see those efforts paid back.
“All of that, after we were caught a bit off balance in the beginning. Our plan was featuring in all breaks and giving a chance to every single team member to shine. We didn’t feature in the early moves, but fortunately, the team controlled really well and kept the break close. Lluís was impressive leading us out, and all team-mates did their job perfectly. We were at all moves after the original break, and my task today was saving some energy for the end. I knew I could ride calmly since we always had someone at the front, and once Rubén was caught, I jumped and was able to make that crucial gap. Things turned out really well for us.”
Cover picture (c): Photo Gomez Sport