Spanish champion from Movistar Team finds better legs, finishes just 23" behind Pogacar (UAD) at decisive climb of Emirati race; Bala now just off overall top-ten in the Gulf.
Much fresher and with a better pedal stroke and feeling on the bike, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) had a much better tone at the 2020 UAE Tour’s second climb of the week to Jebel Hafeet. Stage five, starting from Al Ain (162km), also meant the return of the crosswinds, which had not appeared so far in this year’s race.
Numerous attempts by UAE, Ineos, Astana and Groupama-FDJ attempted, unfruitfully though, to split the bunch, as they pursued a long, five-man breakaway led by James Knox (DQT). Valverde, very well supported by the likes of Cataldo, Rojas, Elosegui, Samitier, Carretero and Albert Torres, reached the foot of the ascent with good legs and only came behind the leading five-man group, including stage winner Pogačar (UAD), Lutsenko (AST), Gaudu (GFC), Zakarin (CCC) and race leader Adam Yates (MTS).
In the end, it was a respectable 7th spot (+23″) for ‘Bala’, almost identically apart from the overall top-ten following today’s effort. The GC shouldn’t experience any more major changes in what’s left, despite the danger of the crosswinds -especially on Friday’s coastal stage six, from Al Ruwais to Al Mirfa (158km)- probably not making things easier for the sprinters.