Movistar Team leader caught just 10 meters from stage four finish in Cazouls-lès-Béziers by Roux (GFC) after 70km break with Sánchez (AST); equals eleven victories from 2017, improves Blues’ account to 22
Alejandro Valverde left a brilliant impression in the 2018 Route d’Occitanie, where the Blues’ legend was an absolute protagonist during a final weekend full of mountains in the French event. The last 70 kilometers of Sunday’s stage four -including the Pic de Nore (Cat-1) midway through, with only ten riders together at its top- were a celebration of Murcia’s finest, with ‘Bala’ in a breakaway with neighbour and friend Luis León Sánchez (AST) which lasted until the very finishing straight.
The two spaniards, which held a gap even exceeding two minutes over a disorganized peloton, full of attacks, later struggled due to the pacing by Groupama-FDJ, AG2R La Mondiale and Sky in the finale, with many little hills and strong winds becoming a serious burden. The duo’s slim advantage had them taking strong turns until the sprint, where Alejandro overtook ‘Luisle’ and powered towards a finish line he went 10 meters short to reach ahead of eventual victor Anthony Roux (GFC).
Valverde, 2nd in the end, still took his 119th pro victory with the GC -fourth of the season, after Valencia, Abu Dhabi and Catalunya-, which improves the Movistar Team’s account up to 22 and leaves Alejandro now just one success short (96 wins since joining the team in 2005) from beating the Abarca Sports organisation’s record, held by Miguel Indurain.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde:
“It was a very tough final stage, and we riders played a big part on it, I guess. ‘Luisle’ went on the attack after the descent, I followed him and in the following kilometers I kept taking turns because I couldn’t let him just pull on his own if we stood a chance for the stage win. At the final little climbs he was struggling a bit and I was pulling off the gas so we could stay together for as long as possible, to have a bigger chance to win, but they really closed the gap from behind and my sprint was too late, launching it from 200 meters to go. In the end, Roux got past few meters before the end.
“We must still remain happy, because after all, we won the overall classification. That’s a confirmation I did things right for the past month, even if I missed the Tour de Suisse due to illness. I feel like the whole team, as well as myself, did a brilliant job. The goals were more than accomplished – we came here just with a will to get ready for July and, after that, seeking for some wins, and we achieved both“.