Movistar Team (United Arab Emirates) – Abu Dhabi Tour (finale).
Spaniard completes tremendous performance all week with convincing victory atop Jebel Hafeet, wins 2018 Abu Dhabi Tour after solid Movistar team-work.
The streak of victorious performances by Alejandro Valverde in his return into racing seems to have no end in the beginning of this 2018 season. After getting his first podium finish back in Mallorca, dominating the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and finishing 2nd in Murcia, the Movistar Team leader took another step forward to win the Queen stage and the overall classification of the Abu Dhabi Tour, his first WorldTour event of the season.
The Spaniard, well covered all week by a strong Blue squad -Sütterlin, Rojas and Bennati always attentive against the wind; De la Parte, Valls and Pedrero supporting ‘Bala’ on today’s ascent and bringing Alejandro all he needed-, was the most courageous of the GC riders into the ascent of Jebel Hafeet. Valverde created an enormous selection into the field with his move halfway through the climb (6km to go) and later on followed a counter move by Colombian Miguel Ángel López (AST).
Alejandro topped his performance with an excellent sprint that takes him to 113 victories in the pro scene, and increases the Movistar Team’s 2018 account to six, five of them obtained by the Spaniard. A phenomenal way to top a brilliant month of February for the Blues, back in winning ways after a harsh second half to the 2018 season for them.
Reaction, Alejandro Valverde:
“I’m super happy with this victory. Before anything, I just want to thank the whole team for their phenomenal work all week, keeping me well protected leading up to the weekend and today’s climb, so I just had to push when it was needed. We were able to get through Saturday’s time trial in a good position and it was all about going for the win today.
“This stage was one to keep extreme attention at, on difficult terrain because of the strong winds and that bit of rain which made roads more slippery. Astana did not hesitate to help López out after showing great form in Oman – we knew he was going to be a big contender and it was even more obvious after they started pushing from so far from the end. Midway through the ascent I chose to try and go alone, but I was caught, and later on he tried to make his move – in that situation and considering the rivals we were facing, it was all about finding the spot from which we could go all in, try to bring him back and do our best to win the stage.
“It’s our first WorldTour victory of the season, which makes it all the more important against the top guns. This month of February will be really important for our confidence in the remainder of the season. It really helps us work harder for the big races to come. My next competitions? I still don’t know where I’ll be next – it should be the Volta a Catalunya, but we might add another race before that, like Strade Bianche. We must wait a bit and define that in the next few days.”
Picture (c): BettiniPhoto.net