Just days ahead of the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) dashed to his second career Spanish national title Sunday to remind everyone he’s on top form.
Despite Movistar backing Nairo Quintana as leader in this year’s Tour, the team will have a very strong ace up its sleeve with Valverde. Under extreme heat on a 185km circuit in Spain’s Extremadura region, Valverde outkicked Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural) to snag the Spanish national jersey. Movistar’s Jesús Herrada crossed the line third.
Movistar set up the mass gallop, and despite hinting he wanted his teammate Herrada to take the win, the 35-year-old Valverde was happy to claim the confidence-boosting victory ahead of next weekend’s start of the Tour.
“In the final meters, more than Jesús, I was paying more attention to Barbero. It’s difficult to look behind, you can only look ahead to the finish line,” Valverde said. “All the rivals are strong, and even though I was looking for my teammate, I had to finish it off. It was a finale that was perfect for me, and I could take advantage of the speed.”
The team of Movistar manager Eusebio Unzué won the Spanish national title for the sixth time in a row. With such stars as Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) skipping the race, Movistar had the pressure to control the race. After not riding as a major factor in the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month, finishing ninth, Valverde is clearly looking to be hitting form just in time for the Tour.
“The Dauphiné was an intense race, difficult, it helped me, and today we could take advantage of it,” Valverde said in a team release. “The team had the race under control, and every kilometer that passed, it was obvious it was going to come down to a sprint. I only had to hold on and fight for the victory. Next is the Tour, and I believe we are arriving in very good form.”
Movistar has yet to announce its final Tour nine, but Valverde looks to be in even better shape than he was last year, when he finished a career-best fourth overall.