Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) proved on Saturday that his victory on stage two was no fluke and that he is indeed back. He won triumphantly on the queen stage of the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana at the top of the brutal climb of Alto de las Canterasto on Saturday. Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates attacked several times, but was unable to shake the Spaniard and had to settle for second, four seconds adrift. Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) finished alongside Yates.
Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) finished the stage in sixth and climbed just fast enough to prevent Yates from taking his third place in the overall standings. Fuglsang leads Yates by 11 seconds in the fight for the final podium place. It should hold onto third overall, as the final stage into Valencia on Sunday is expected to finish in a bunch sprint. Sanchez is second overall at 14 seconds back.
“The first thing I want to do is thank my whole team because their work all day was impressive,” Valverde said after the stage. “The start was really, really fast, with attacks everywhere and not many teams wanting to keep things calm. Sky even tried to go all-in into the first ascent towards Cocentaina, after the Benillup climbs.
“When Kwiatkowski attacked, we tried to keep him at a short distance first, but later on realized that we had to let him go because we would be wasting some precious weapons if we tried to keep him on a leash. They then tried to get a third man at the front, and that’s where I went myself to chase him. The good thing was that my teammates were able to stay strong and keep things a little bit more controlled in the following phase, so I could stay calm until the end. There’s no way I couldn’t finish things off for them, I had to pay them back. This win really feels great. I keep this yellow jersey and obtaining a second win in just seven days of racing … I honestly don’t know if I’m stronger than before the injury.”
Seven categorized climbs over 184 kilometers awaited the riders on Saturday, including the first category ascent of Alto de las Canterasto to the finish. The stage was definitely the hardest of the race and after Friday’s team time trial didn’t count toward the general classification, it was still anybody’s race to win.
Despite a flurry of early attacks, it took a while for the day’s breakaway to go clear with six riders gaining around three minutes on the bunch after 80 kilometers of racing.
The climbs inevitably started to take their toll and the general classification hopefuls began to move when Kwiatkowski was the first to jump with 60 kilometers still to race. Kwiatkowski had his teammate Vasil Kiryenka up the road in the break and the two Sky riders joined forces with 30 kilometers to go, making up a front group of four riders just a mere one-minute ahead of the peloton.
The quartet split between the last two climbs with Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain-Merida) attacking from behind and passing the group and only Kwiatkowski was able to follow.
The duo led onto the lower slopes of category one ascent to the finish before being caught by the bunch, as a flurry of attacks erupted off the front.
Inside the final five kilometers, Yates launched attack after attack in an attempt to drop Valverde. However, he was unable to do so and the five-time Fleche Wallonne winner launched a leg-busting acceleration with 150 meters to go to take the stage and seal the overall title.
“I wouldn’t say that it was necessarily planned to go on the attack today, but my legs felt fairly good on stage two considering it is so early in the season, so I was keen to have a hit out and test myself,” Yates said. “The team were great as always and looked after me all day so I could give it my all up the final climb.
“It is always difficult to know exactly where you’re at after the winter, but I am pleased with my early form and I’m enjoying being back racing. While we didn’t get the win today, there are plenty more opportunities and many more races to come.
When it was all said and done, Fuglsang was satisfied with how the day went. “I think we can be happy with the race so far. So, it is a good start, this is my first race and I feel like my form is ok,” Fuglsang said. “We still have some time to work a bit more and to improve for the first big goals of the season, but so far everything is more than ok.”
The final stage of the race takes place Sunday and travels 135 kilometers from Paterna to Valencia.
Top 10, stage 4
- 1. Alejandro Valverde, MOVISTAR TEAM, in 04:48:35
- 2. Adam Yates, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 00:04
- 3. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:04
- 4. Jesús Herrada, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 00:09
- 5. Primoz Roglic, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 00:10
- 6. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:10
- 7. Pello Bilbao, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:15
- 8. Roman Kreuziger, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 00:18
- 9. Kilian Frankiny, BMC RACING TEAM, at 00:24
- 10. Ben Hermans, ISRAEL CYCLING ACADEMY, at 00:30
- 1. Alejandro Valverde, MOVISTAR TEAM, in 13:16:23
- 2. Luis Leon Sanchez, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:14
- 3. Jakob Fuglsang, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:26
- 4. Adam Yates, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 00:37,
- 5. Jesús Herrada, COFIDIS, SOLUTIONS CRéDITS, at 00:48
- 6. Primoz Roglic, TEAM LOTTONL-JUMBO, at 00:49
- 7. Pello Bilbao, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 00:54
- 8. Roman Kreuziger, MITCHELTON-SCOTT, at 00:57
- 9. Kilian Frankiny, BMC RACING TEAM, at 01:03
- 10. Amaro Manuel Antunes, CCC SPRANDI POLKOWICE, at 01:09