Alejandro Valverde: “To me, the most important stage will be L’Angliru”
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Alejandro Valverde: “To me, the most important stage will be L’Angliru”

by Ben Atkins at 5:26 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
2009 Vuelta a España champion sees Horner as main rival for Nibali’s red jersey

alejandro valverdeAlejandro Valverde (Movistar) entered the second rest day of the Vuelta a España with his morale and confidence high, after having been able to drop red jersey Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) in the mountains for the first time. The 2009 race winner was among several general classification contenders that were able to leave the Sicilian behind on the finishing climb to Aramon Formigal on stage 16, closing to just 1’14” behind him overall.

"Yesterday's ride was a bit of a boost for us - we have realised we have more chances to win the Vuelta,” said Valverde to the Movistar rest day press conference. “The team is doing really great and after two really demanding days we all were feeling a bit out of energy, but we still gave everything we had to make the race harder.

“It might have been due to our strategy that Nibali showed some weakness,” he continued. “Initially, we were trying to set things up for me so I could win the stage, but having José Herrada into the break, after his great performance in this Vuelta, made us choose to play our cards with him, though unfortunately, we couldn't complete the strategy with a win. The team feels reinforced after these two weeks: they're lucid, willing to keep pushing, in good spirits." 

With the second rest day coming on the final Tuesday of the race, there are now just five stages between the peloton and the finish in Madrid. Of those, tomorrow’s stage will offer little to the general classification battle, and Sunday’s final stage will be the usual, partly ceremonial blast around the streets of the Spanish capital. The remaining three stages are classified as high mountains, however, with two of those ending in tough mountaintop finishes.

"There are two days suitable for making gaps: Peña Cabarga and L’Angliru,” Valverde said. “Naranco is an important stage and the route offers room for improvements, but I think the other two are harder, more decisive, and should we feel strong, we'll try to squeeze our chances.

“To me, the most important stage will be L’Angliru,” he explained. “Gaps are still short, and I think we can get to that day in the same situation - there, we won't save any energy, it's all or nothing. If we get to that point with these gaps, anything can happen. I think a minute or a minute and a half might be enough for anyone getting in red to that climb, but it would be close and hard to retain the jersey if shorter.

“Playing myself an all-or-nothing for a chance to win?” he asked. “Well, I might give it a shot. If I see a chance for an early attack or feel there's some rival in trouble and I'm strong enough, I'll take the chance.”

As well as the 1’14” he trails Nibali, Valverde also trails Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) by 46 seconds. With the American also managing to drop Nibali on Aramon Formigal yesterday, Valverde is aware of the task that he faces to take the lead in the race.

“Nibali has been really strong so far - he's still the man to beat along with Horner, but he showed some weakness yesterday,” Valverde said. “I had already seen him going through a bit of trouble the day before, and yesterday everyone could see that, while we were all a bit on our limit, he was a little step behind. Horner lost too much time at the time trial; leaving that day aside, he's proving even stronger than Nibali in the mountains and could well be in the leader's jersey.

“We weren't counting on him so much at the start, but his exhibition in Haza Llana made us take him fully into account,” Valverde continued. “He might be the most difficult rival for Nibali: he's just twenty-eight seconds behind, while I am 1’14” back, and though Nibali might be fearing the three of us - myself, Horner, Purito [Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha)], it's Horner who is the closest to him. He didn't show any weakness after these days of cold, rain and long rides, and having this rest day and tomorrow's stage, not so hard, I really doubt if he will pay all the efforts of these three weeks and drop."


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