Catalunya, stage 4: Valverde wins summit finish, takes back lead

Alejandro Valverde wins his second stage at Volta a Catalunya atop the climb of La Molina, reclaiming the overall race lead.

With a display of dominance by his Movistar team, Alejandro Valverde won his second stage at Volta a Catalunya Thursday atop the climb of La Molina. With the win, the Spaniard reclaimed the overall race lead. His teammate Nairo Quintana was third in the 170.8km stage near Alp, Spain. Team Sky’s Egan Bernal was second.

“I knew he was a very fast rider here,” Valverde said of Bernal. “It was difficult for him to beat me, but it is true that Egan is a terrific rider and he is proving that.”

On the final seven kilometer climb, Movistar had three riders in the final selection. Along with Valverde and Quintana, Marc Soler was an aggressor on the ascent to the ski station at 1,690 meters.

Besides the Spanish team’s contingent, Bernal was joined by Pierre-Roger LaTour (Ag2r La Mondiale).

Perhaps feeling the effects of his attack early on the climb, Soler drifted back to the chase group, about 30 seconds in arrears.

LaTour was next to depart the final selection, resigned to ride his own tempo to the finish.

In the final kilometer, Quintana looked to be suffering a bit and was unable to keep the steady, grinding pace set by Valverde and Bernal.

Around the final sweeping right-hand bend, Valverde stood out of the saddle and quickly had a gap on the young Colombian Bernal. The 37-year-old rode home to victory with Bernal a few bike lengths behind.

“I suffered a lot at the late part of La Creueta and its descent,” Valverde said of the penultimate climb where Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) attacked. “[His attack] 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.”

With a 19-second advantage over Bernal and no summit finishes remaining in the race, Valverde looks poised to win his third Catalunya tour. However, Friday’s stage 5 should be a difficult test with three major climbs on a 212.9km route that finishes with a downhill to Vielha Val d’Aran.

Top five, stage 4

1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), in 4:25:54
2. Egan Bernal (Team Sky), s.t.
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at :06
4. Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale), at :23
5. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), at :53

Top-five overall

1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), in 17:00:58
2. Egan Bernal (Team Sky), at :19
3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), at :26
4. Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale), at :48
5. Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), at 1:12