Vuelta a España: Valverde angry at Team Sky as it accelerates in crosswind crash
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vuelta a España: Valverde angry at Team Sky as it accelerates in crosswind crash

by Ben Atkins at 1:55 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
British team keeps the hammer down as the race leader picks himself up off the tarmac

alejandro valverdeAlejandro Valverde (Movistar) was angry with Team Sky at the end of today’s fourth stage of the Vuelta a España, between Barakaldo and the Estación de Valdezcaray, because of what he viewed as some unsporting racing from the British team in the final third of the race, according to biciciclismo.com. With 40km to go, and with a five-man breakaway around 14 minutes up the road, the peloton began to experience crosswinds from the right hand side; Team Sky decided to cause some chaos in the peloton and hit the front to increase the pace but, as they did so, Valverde and a number of others came down.

Despite seeing the Murcian rider’s red race leader’s jersey on the road behind them, Team Sky continued to ramp up the pace, which eventually cost Valverde almost a minute on his overall rivals by the time he reached the finish.

Needless to say Valverde was not happy about the incident since, not only had the British team not observed the tradition of not taking advantage of a crash from the race leader, he felt that its actions had actually caused him to go down. He was seen remonstrating with the Team Sky riders, as they warmed down outside their team bus after the stage.

“Sky went to form an echelon, which I understand, and is their right,” he told Spanish radio station Cadena Ser. “But what they can’t do is put that echelon through the middle of the peloton. They caused the crash; and then they had the cojones not to stop.

“We were caught out by that,” he explained. “Because they directly went left without looking, as if they were alone in the race.”

With the breakaway containing Cofidis’ Luis Angel Maté, who started the day just 3’36” behind Valverde, it was highly likely that the Movistar rider would have lost the red jersey after the stage anyway. The fact that he was lost it, and 55 seconds, to some of his big rivals is far more of a problem; especially the manner in which it happened.

“It doesn’t annoy me that I’ve lost the race leadership, because we planned to lose it, but they should have been a bit more sporting.”

New race leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) appeared to concur with Valverde’s sentiments after the stage. His team had been working alongside Sky at first, but soon pulled away from the front when the Catalan found out what had happened to his Murcian rival.

“In the beginning we didn't realise Valverde was involved in the crash,” he explained, “but when [Valverde’s Movistar teammate Beñat] Intxausti came to tell me I asked my teammates to stop leading and pulling the group.

“I'm not criticising the choice of other teams,” he added diplomatically, “but I thought it was the right thing to do.”

This was not the first time that Valverde has been involved in such an incident this season, with the Spanish rider and his team being on both sides of it earlier in the spring. In the penultimate stage of Paris-Nice in mid-March, Movistar accelerated on the front of the peloton after Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Levi Leipheimer crashed, putting the American out of contention and Valverde on the overall race podium.

Ten days later the Belgian team returned the compliment after Valverde himself crashed in the second stage of the Volta a Catalunya, putting him out of overall contention; although his injuries meant that he didn’t start the next day anyway.

Valverde now appears to be 2-1 down in this season's un-sportsmanship stakes, whether his team will seek to equalise the scores before the end of the Vuelta remains to be seen.

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