Valverde Dominates Catalyuna with third stage win

Valverde Dominates Catalyuna with third stage win after late attack by Dan Martin fails to reap the reward he deserved

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Valverde Dominates Catalyuna with third stage win

Alejandro Valverde crowned his overall victory in the 97th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya with a third stage victory in Barcelona.

‘Bala’ claimed honours on the final stage over 138km course, including eight laps of the famous Montjuïc mountain, to again respond to perfect Movistar team-work.

Dan Martin’s (QST) acceleration in the final kilometres encouraged the man from Murcia to anticipate a selected group sprint and complete a week’s exhibition victorious on the line –his 7th win of 2017, the 104th of his pro career. Valverde won the GC and the KOM classification; Marc Soler finished 3rd as best Young Rider; and the Movistar riders were deservedly proclaimed the best squad in the race.

Valverde’s success is his second in the Volta a Catalunya after winning the 2009 race, and marks the eighth overall triumph for Eusebio Unzué’s organization, with Indurain (’88, ’91, ’92), Chava Jiménez (’00), Karpets (’07) and Nairo Quintana (2016). Soler confirms his promising future, after signs of character with last year’s Route du Sud queen stage victory and this month’s third-place finish at the final stage of Paris-Nice.

The pace increased as each lap of the tough Montjuic circuit was clipped off, and in the final 30 kilometres Team Sky came to the fore. Phil Deignan and Mikel Nieve dug deep to string out the bunch and haul back the day’s breakaway. That work laid the foundations for a gutsy pair of attacks. Thomas was the first to launch a move with 13km to go.

The Welshman opened out a small gap, and despite dragging other riders up the road, a lack of cohesion saw the sortie quickly snuffed out by the rampant peloton. During a temporary regrouping, Froome picked his moment well, launching a massive solo attack with just 9km to go. With his advantage stretching out to almost 15 seconds at one point, it looked like the Brit may be able to hold on. But after a crowd-pleasing spell off the front he was hauled back with 5km to go.

A thrilling finish saw Alejandro Valverde claim the final stage, putting an exclamation point on an impressive overall victory. The Movistar rider had bridged across to a late move from Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors), and despite being caught in the final moments, the Spaniard had enough to hold on and launch a winning sprint.
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Alejandro Valverde: “The legs felt really good after such a difficult race as in Saturday, when we had to go through some difficult climbs at a very high pace, under the rain and with much cold. It was all completely different today, with pleasant weather, a short stage and – just like throughour the whole week – a magnificent job from my team-mates to control that 22-rider early break, later chased down by the other teams.

At that final lap, I knew Martin would be jumping away at that point next to the Stadium, because he had done so in the past. I just went after him – though it took a lot for me to close the gap, when he stopped I could see that our advantage was decent. Since it wasn’t the best cooperation between us two, we ended up starting that downhill sprint at a very much slower speed than the pursuit group. I just, barely managed to win the stage.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get these results. I knew I was in good condition leading up to this race, and those final training rides with Rojas and my team-mates in Andorra the week prior did good on me, but you had to keep in mind that I had spent a whole month without racing, since the Vuelta a Andalucía, while some other rivals like Alberto had a better racing pace.

My plan was to go day-by-day, without setting my sights on the bigger goals, but my legs got better and better through the race, even more so today. The Volta is a race that I really like, and every time I take the start here is with an aim to do things well. My five team-mates were superb, and I don’t want to forget about Castroviejo and Amador, who had to abandon with illness yet still did great while they could. We proved we were the strongest team at the TTT, and I tried to continue chasing victories to repay the whole squad after their fantastic effort on Tuesday and ever since.”

Marc Soler: “I wasn’t expecting this result at all. My plan here was supporting Alejandro so he could win the Volta. I knew I was in good form after my performance in Paris-Nice, but when you’re young as I am, you always have some sort of doubt on your real level against such strong contenders. I got a podium finish that makes me extremely happy and surprised.

Yates tried to take that third place away from me with his move into the last climb, but I was riding strong, I had so much support from the fans as I was riding at home, and even tried to counter his move and attack at the final slopes of the climb. We must remain calm, this doesn’t change anything in my career. I’m not thinking about riding a Grand Tour straight away. I didn’t race any during my first two pro seasons, and it doesn’t matter. The important thing is that my progression is leading me to some big results, things are going well. We can’t rush it – it’s just a beautiful step in my career.”

Dan Martin: Martin’s bold attack was a fitting way to conclude the Spanish event for Quickstep – “Despite being a young team, the guys were always up there and this makes me very proud. I knew it was going to be difficult to beat the fast riders today, but nevertheless I wanted to try something, because I thought it was the best moment to do so.”

“I didn’t get the win, but I’m happy with this move”, said Dan Martin, one of the strongest riders in the race, who was sixth at the end of the day in the Volta a Catalunya general classification. “Besides the solid results, what I can also take out of this race is the fact that I’ve always been there and proved my consistency. After testing myself on this circuit very similar to the classics, I now look with even more confidence to the Ardennes.”

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek Segafredo): “We knew it was an opportunity, both yesterday and today,” said Pantano. “Unfortunately yesterday I could not be in the first group, but today went much better. The end of the race was very fast and was quite hard. Thanks to Alberto, who helped me pull in the end, that we were close to the victory.”

“I feel super; the sensations are quite good. I never thought that Alberto was the person he is, but it is very good to have him as a teammate, he is a great professional and a great person. He fills you with confidence, and I am very happy to work for him. I am happy to be here and to put a grain of sand for Alberto.”

Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo): “Today has not been a walk in the park at all, perhaps if it was seen on television,” said Contador. “It was a very, very demanding stage in which we wanted to try our options with Jarlinson Pantano, who has always been working for me. We have been very close to the victory with him.

“It has not been possible to win because Movistar has been very strong in all areas and we have to congratulate them. But I am very happy with my performance at this beginning of the season even though we have made many second places. I prefer to have these second places than to get victories and maybe not have the same level. The victories will come sooner or later; we are well placed in the WorldTour ranking, which is also important for the team.”

“We are riding very well despite the fact that it is difficult for the team to run with me because we always take responsibility and that makes my teammates have great wear,” Contador pointed out, heaping praise on his teammates. “In fact, in the Basque Country the team will be completely different from the one I’ve had here and Paris-Nice because my teammates are quite fatigued. But I’m really happy about how they are behaving with me and with the support they give to me!”

Tejay van Garderen: “When the breakaway went as we saw that Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team), who was only four minutes down on the GC, was in there, we knew that they [Movistar Team] weren’t going to let it go. We had Brent Bookwalter there to cover the move, and it was good that he could represent us up at the front of the race. When he hit the circuits, there was a lot of attacks and a really fast pace. I was able to stick with the GC guys, and I felt good, so I was looking to see if I could attack and gain a few seconds. In the end, the pace was just so high, and the opportunity didn’t present itself, but I am happy with my position overall.”

“I’ve felt strong and healthy all week. I think my form has been solid. For me, the team time trial was the highlight of my week, and La Molina was also a good day. Reflecting on the Lo Port climb, I know that I have some work to do to get ready for the Giro d’Italia in May but there is still time, and I don’t think I need to panic. I am glad I could put my name on the scoreboard in terms of the UCI WorldTour this week.”

“I definitely feel that my form has improved even from Tirreno-Adriatico. I can’t sugarcoat it too much, a lot of it was down to piggy-backing on the opening team time trial. Now, I have to be prepared to work on the areas I need to and I know I have the work ethic to do that so, I think I am on the right track for May.”

Stage 7
1. Alejandro Valverde, Movistar Team
2. Jarlinson Pantano, Trek – Segafredo
3. Arthur Vichot, FDJ
4. Rafał Majka, Bora – Hansgrohe
5. Daniel Martin, Quick-Step Floors
6. Aldemar Manzana Reyes Postobon
7. Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale
8. Davide Formolo, Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team
9. George Bennett, Team LottoNL-Jumbo
10. Steven Kruijswijk, Team LottoNL-Jumbo

13. Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Team
14. Adam Yates ORICA-Scott
15. Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo
16. Marc Soler Movistar Team
48. Chris Froome Team Sky 1.04
57. Geraint Thomas, Team Sky 3:57
105. Hugh Carthy, Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team 9:47

Final Overall
1. Alejandro Valverde Movistar Team
2. Alberto Contador Trek – Segafredo 1:03
3. Marc Soler Movistar Team 1:16
4. Adam Yates ORICA-Scott 1:31
5. Tejay van Garderen BMC Racing Team 1:34
6. Daniel MartinQuick-Step Floors 2:29
7. Steven Kruijswijk , Team LottoNL-Jumbo 2:56
8. VeronaCarlosORICA-Scott 3:00
9. George Bennett, Team LottoNL-Jumbo 3:01
10. Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale 3:05

20. Hugh Carthy Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team 18:04
30. Chris Froome Team Sky 28:19
34. Geraint Thomas Team Sky 32:25



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