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ALPE d’HUEZ, France (VN) — Alejandro Valverde went all-in during Wednesday’s Tour de France stage and went bust.
The Movistar veteran did what everyone was hoping someone would try in the Alps — he attacked Sky. Valverde bolted from the peloton near the summit of the hors categorie Col du Pré with 54 kilometers remaining and surged down the descent. A short while later he linked up with teammate Marc Soler, who was in the day’s early breakaway.
The duo powered away from the group on the descent from the Cormet de Roselend and built a sizable gap. Valverde even rode into the virtual yellow jersey at one point. [related title=”More Tour de France news” align=”right” tag=”Tour-de-France”]
The gap, however, was not meant to be. Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) attacked out of the group on the descent from the Cormet de Roselend climb and caught Valverde. The move forced Sky to place its domestiques onto the front of the group and churn out a speedy tempo. On the lower slopes of the final climb, Valverde was gobbled up by Sky and the collective force of the peloton. He tumbled out of pole position for the yellow jersey to 11th at 4:28 back.
“We were the team that tried the most, but you have to congratulate Sky,” Valverde said at the finish line. “They were on top and now it’s up to us to keep trying.”
On a day when Movistar’s three-pronged attack tried to derail Team Sky, the team got pummeled on the push to the finish line. Sky’s punishing tempo shed Mikel Landa. Then when Geraint Thomas attacked, Nairo Quintana did not follow the Englishman, deciding instead to shadow Froome.
Froome eventually surged away from Quintana in the final kilometers, and Movistar’s captain was left to pedal in alongside Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Romain Bardet (Ag2r LaMondiale), and Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo).
Movistar is now in worse position going into Thursday’s stage to Alpe d’Huez, which closes out three stages in the Alps.
Was Valverde’s move worth it? Valverde said yes.
“We did what we planned to do,” Valverde said.
Indeed, other riders agreed. Frenchman Pierre LaTour said the Spaniard’s attack forced Sky to up the pace to keep him in check.
“Valverde attacked from far out,” LaTour said. “That’s what threw them into a panic. It was always flat out after that.”
Thus far, Valverde’s move marks the most serious challenge to Sky’s domination of the race.
“We gave everything, and that’s the most important. There is still a lot of Tour,” Valverde said. “We’ll give everything to continue to be protagonists.”
Valverde and Movistar didn’t wait long. Valverde snuck into an early move on the Col de la Madeleine with Andrey Amador in Thursday’s decisive stage to Alpe d’Huez.