Alejandro Valverde: “Horner was a surprise, but I don't think it was too much”
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Monday, September 02, 2013

Alejandro Valverde: “Horner was a surprise, but I don't think it was too much”

by Ben Atkins at 6:48 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Spanish rider impressed by American veteran’s performance but remains confident of own form

alejandro valverdeYet to win a stage of this year’s Vuelta a España, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sprinted to his third podium spot of the race so far - and his second in as many days - on the steep mountaintop finish of the Alto de Hazallanas. The Murcian, who is one of the big favourites for final overall victory, was a minute an two seconds behind stage winner Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard). He now trails the American veteran by that exact margin, heading into the first rest day.

“I had already stated that today was the stage where we would be really seeing who were the biggest candidates for the Vuelta overall, with two real climbs along the way,” Valverde said.

Ahead of Valverde on the line was 2010 Vuelta winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who is aiming to become only the fourth rider to win the Giro d’Italia/Vuelta double, while just behind him were Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha), Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr) and Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff).

“Horner was a surprise, but I don't think it was too much, because he was already riding well - the time gap might have been it, a minute is quite a difference,” Valverde said. “When he won his first stage, he already proved strong, but he won convincingly today. The rest of us - Nibali, Purito [Rodríguez], Basso, Pinot or Roche - we're all pretty much close to each other right now. Nibali got a bit of a gap today, but we're all quite strong.

“I don't know if the current situation will change the race's development, as Nibali, Purito and myself looked to each other a bit, but we also knew we weren't the only podium contenders, and everyone could see it today.”

As Horner was putting in his attack with just under five kilometres to go, Valverde was a little off the pace of the other contenders. He managed to rejoin them shortly afterwards, however, and was able to take the sprint for third place.

"I dropped a bit with 5k to go because I knew the climb really well - we had trained a lot on these roads and I knew I had to set my own pace,’ Valverde explained. “I took some breath and could close the gap again; even though I suffered a lot, I found myself better after that.

“As I'm saying, it was the first real mountain stage today, and there's still a long way to go,” he added. “I have to thank and congratulate my team because they were splendid today once again. We're really willing to get that rest day, though it will be a bit more active than usual since we have the TT on Wednesday. It seems like a hard time trial, so it shouldn't be bad for me. We'll put some guts on it and suffer as much as we can."

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