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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta a España: Alejandro Valverde, Mikel Landa criticize urban circuits in Dutch stages

Spanish riders relieved to leave behind narrow Dutch roads packed with traffic furniture as Vuelta returns to Spain.

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Alejandro Valverde will be happy he’s back on home roads following three days of nervous racing in the Netherlands to open the 2022 Vuelta a España.

The 42-year-old is racing his final grand tour this month but was none too pleased to see the nervous finishing circuit featured in Sunday’s third stage in Breda.

The opening three stages saw the Vuelta’s first two abandons due to crashes, with Steff Cras (Lotto Soudal) on Saturday and Michael Woods (Israel Premier Tech) leaving Sunday. Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) also went down but was able to make it through relatively uninjured.

Valverde didn’t like what he saw in the opening days of his last hurrah at the Vuelta.

“We had a lot of frights in general, better that I say nothing,” Valverde told journalists. “We saved the day and now we’re heading back to Spain.

“I don’t want to say more because I will get angry,” he told AS. “They cannot have these types of circuits. It seems like we went through the same town seven times. I didn’t crash, only because we were controlling things incredibly well.”

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Valverde is hoping to at least win a stage in his final grand tour at the 2022 Vuelta. Before the race started Friday, the murciano confirmed (again) that the Vuelta is his last three-week stage race but downplayed any GC aspirations.

He extended his career into 2022 in part because he crashed out of last year’s Vuelta with a broken clavicle, and didn’t want to end his career with an injury.

Mikel Landa (Bahrain Victorious) was also relieved to leave the nervous and narrow Dutch roads packed with traffic furniture without any serious setbacks.

“The stage was very nervous,” Landa he told AS on Sunday. “There were a whole lot of traffic circles and roads we are not accustomed to. We are happy to get out of here.”

Like Valverde, Landa is downplaying his GC chances. Third overall at the Giro d’Italia in May, Landa only returned to racing late last month and said his goal is to try to win a stage.

“I am feeling better day by day, so I am happy about that,” Landa said. “Until we arrive at the first climb I truly won’t know where I am with my form. My objective remains to try to fight for a stage.”

Monday’s rest day sees the peloton and entourage arrive in Spain’s Basque Country. Tuesday’s 152.5km fourth stage from Vitoria-Gasteiz to Laguardia should be interesting, with second- and third-category climbs to spice things up before an uphill grinding finale in the final kilometer.