Movistar Team (Spain) – Telefónica-backed squad offers strong display of confidence at Queen stage in Volta a Catalunya: sees Valverde claimins his seventh win in 2018; takes 10th victory this season; keeps Nairo Quintana (3rd) and Marc Soler (6th today, 7th overall) within best ten in GC.
The Movistar Team took advantage on Thursday from their strength in numbers and courageous attitude to strike a hard blow to the overall standings in the 2018 Volta a Catalunya, with Alejandro Valverde back in the lead via his second stage victory in this year’s race atop La Molina (Cat-1). The Spaniard took to fruition a splendid job from all of his six team-mates in the Queen stage, the Blues always staying calm and keeping the race under control before going on the attack all over the final ascent.
After keeping the day’s two most dangerous breakaways -one by Esteban Chaves (MTS) over the climbs to Jou (Cat-1) and La Creueta (Especial); the other, by Matej Mohoric (TBM), into the last downhill to Alp- with a sensational Erviti, Pedrero, Anacona and Rojas, Marc Soler started -just like on yesterday’s stage- the attacks into the GC group with 10km remaining. The Catalan youngster created a severe selection and anticipated Valverde’s first attack, quickly joined by Nairo Quintana’s coverage of the moves behind the Spaniard. The three Movistar Team riders were even able to form a seven-man group midway through the ascent, later reduced to a four-rider mover -with Nairo, ‘Bala’, Latour (ALM) and Bernal (SKY)- made possible by Soler’s excellent pressure. The moves by Bernal did not make Valverde nervous, and after some late help from Quintana, Alejandro took a convincing sprint victory at Alp’s decisive slope.
Valverde, who gets back to the Volta GC lead with 19″ on Bernal and 26″ to Nairo (3rd) -Soler now in 7th, 1’18” behind-, has claimed already his seventh win in 2018 (115 as a pro cyclist) and the 10th so far this season for the Movistar Team, which will have to continue defending the ‘white-green’ jersey of its team leader in the three days remaining. Friday will bring a long (212km), tough course to Vielha, the last route in the Pyrenees before heading down south to reach Barcelona, where the race will end on Sunday.
“It was a really tough day, more importantly because of the cold temperatures. I suffered a lot at the late part of La Creueta and its descent. The move by Mitchelton on the Joy climb was a really good one, but didn’t make us become nervous for two reasons: one, it was a very tough stage, and two, it was quite harder for a solo rider to reach the finish. That’s why Chaves cracked near the final climb and couldn’t continue his action. The team was phenomenal, all day – they kept the race always under control and stayed calm. At the descent of La Creueta I went after that move from Mohoric on the downhill, but he took such risks into a couple of turns that I chose not to continue, because I didn’t want to hurt myself. I preferred to eat, complete the rest of the descent in a more relaxed way and wait for my team-mates.
“I was so happy to see things unfold in such a great way for us into that last climb. With help from our team directors and with some good organisation between the three of us, everything went to perfection. Still, it wasn’t really that hard, the strategy for me was simple: should Soler or Nairo attack, I just had to wait and let others go after their moves. Being three into those groups, we had a strong advantage. I just had to stay on their wheels and then go for the stage win. I won’t get tired of saying it: Nairo, Marc and all team-mates were ‘A-plus’ today. Bernal now becomes the most dangerous contender for the GC. He’s a brilliant rider at this moment and he’ll be even better in the future. We should keep an eye on him all the way to Sunday. I trust my team-mates and we’ll fight to keep this jersey until the very end.”
Pictures (c): Photo Gomez Sport.