Alejandro, again supported by extraordinary Marc Soler, concedes just 23" against Roglic (TJV), Pogacar (UAD) & López (AST) in hardest stage for him so far in the race, prior to final rest day in Burgos.
The Movistar Team protected themselves well from a difficult day for its team leader in the 2019 Vuelta a España, Alejandro Valverde, during the second and final big mountain stage in Asturias, from Pravia to the top of the Alto de la Cubilla (HC) over 144km with two other huge climbs, San Lorenzo (Cat-1) and La Cobertoria (Cat-1).
The action between the main contenders, as Jumbo-Visma kept the front of the bunch for the entire stage, did not unfold until the last 8km of the final climb, with Astana picking up the pace in the peloton; dropping several riders -including Nairo Quintana, who now sits in 6th overall after losing more than two minutes with the race favourites-; and anticipated a series of attacks by Miguel Ángel López and Tadej Pogacar (UAD), the second of which eventually made Valverde struggle.
Supported by a stellar Marc Soler, who drove a consistent, solid pace for the World Champion until the final 500 meters, Alejandro, who finished just next to early escapee Imanol Erviti, concede only 23″ against the attackers and race leader Primoz Roglic (TJV) to remain in 2nd overall, 2’48” behind the Slovenian and with a 1’11” gap to keep the podium. The race convoy will travel this evening to Burgos, whose province will hold the final rest day of La Vuelta on Tuesday.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“It was quite a decent result for me after all. It wasn’t my worst day here, and not the best either, you can say. I gained 40″ yesterday and lost 23″ today; one for the other! Considering the tough route on today’s stage, 23″ is basically nothing. All major podium contenders are pretty much equal in strength, or so I feel it like. Marc did a phenomenal job to help me. Initially, he chose to carry on after Pogacar and López’s attacks, so as to help me if I could attack and bridge back, but in the end, I was actually struggling a bit. Even Roglic showed some weakness today, but just like me, he set his pace and was even able to join them. Having Marc there really helped me a lot. The rest day will help us – just like everyone, of course. Still with a chance to win La Vuelta? Well’, there’s terrain to win it, to lose it and many other things in between…”
Tour of Britain: Blues remain unscathed after stage three
There weren’t, in turn, any incidents for the Movistar Team during stage three of the Tour of Britain, as all six Blues finished inside the main peloton at Newcastle’s slightly uphill finish, won by Dylan Groenewegen (TJV).
There was, nevertheless, a small 8″ split halfway through the field, with Andrey Amador -again the top Movistar Team finisher in 21st- as best-placed in both the stage and the GC, now 12th overall at 17″ from Matteo Trentin (MTS). Tuesday will mark the coming of the first real climbs to the race, with three rated ascents in the Pennines and three non-rated, yet significant climb in the last 15km to Kendal, where a tougher uphill will close stage four.
Cover picture (c): BettiniPhoto