Spaniard defends yellow leader’s jersey with comfort and brilliance to conquer Queen stage in Cocentaina’s Alto de Las Canteras, increasing his lead before heading into the final stage to Valencia
Words start to run low to define Alejandro Valverde‘s sensational return into racing after his accident in the 2017 Tour de France. Following his exhibition in the Alto del Garbí towin in Albuixech on Thursday, taking the leader’s jersey in the process, the Spanish rider from the Movistar Team reasserted his dominant position in the Queen stage of the 2018 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, a tough 184km journey from Orihuela to the Alto de las Canteras in Cocentaina.
Valverde was the strongest into the decisive stretch of the final climb, staying calm against all attacks from his rivals to finish off with one of his signature sprints in the closing 150 meters, where he left his group companions behind and reached down Briton Adam Yates (MTS), who had jumped away seconds before. The win, Alejandro’s 110th as a professional rider, strengthens his lead in the standings, now with 14 seconds over 2nd-place Luis León Sánchez (AST) and 26″ over Jakob Fuglsang.
Valverde rounded off a fine work from the whole Movistar Team all day. Early race control from Arcas, Bico, Sütterlin and Carretero was followed later on by big turns from Rojas and Rosón into the two ascents of Benillup (Cat-3), prior to the decisive climb. The squad directed by Chente García Acosta will have to get over one final hurdle tomorrow to claim success in the race, with a fast 135km loop from Paterna to Valencia and over the Alto del Oronet (Cat-4), 35k from the finish.
REACTION, Alejandro Valverde:
“The first thing I want to do is thank my whole team, because their work all day was impressive. The start was really, really fast, with attacks everywhere and not many teams wanting to keep things calm. Sky even tried to go all-in into the first ascent towards Cocentaina, after the Benillup climbs. When Kwiatkowski attacked, we tried to keep him at short distance first, but later on realised that we had to let him go, because we would be wasting some precious weapons if we tried to keep him on a leash. They then tried to get a third man at the front, and that’s where I went myself to chase him. The good thing was that my team-mates were able to stay strong and keep things a little bit more controlled in the following phase, so I could stay calm until the end. There’s no way I couldn’t finish things off for them, I had to pay them back. This win really feels great. I keep this yellow jersey and obtaining a second win in just seven days of racing… I honestly don’t know if I’m stronger than before the injury (laughs).“