News: Valverde’s First Win as World Champion

The wait is over for World Champion Alejandro Valverde – after several races showing his unparalelled consistency, the first mountain-top finish of the 2019 UAE Tour provided the launch pad for his maiden victory as World Champion

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News: Valverde’s First Win as World Champion

The wait is over. After several races showing his unparalelled consistency, yet not being able to raise his arms victorious, the first mountain-top finish of the 2019 UAE Tour witnessed the maiden victory as World Champion for Alejandro Valverde on the slopes of Jebel Hafeet, the same climb where he sealed his overall success in the final edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour back in 2018.

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The #BalaArcoíris thus claimed his 123rd victory as a professional rider since 2002 -it’s the 16th year in which he takes at least one win- and the fifth success so far this year for the Movistar Team, which now has one rider, Alejandro, with a hundred victories with the Abarca Sports organisation, since they took up building pro teams in 1980.

The work by Castrillo, Oliveira, Sütterlin, Amador and – inside the final 10km ascent – Lluís Mas and Rubén Fernández kept Valverde always calm, tucked inside an ever-shrinking peloton against the strong winds and following the insistent pacing from Jumbo-Visma.

Alejandro did not react to the first big acceleration from race leader Primoz Roglic (TJV), 3.5km from the line, rather than letting the race come to him, measure his efforts and launch an attack with 2.5km to go, to reach down Daniel Martin (UAD) who was dropped from the Slovenian’s wheel, and a second move with just over 1km to go, to reach the front and lead the sprint out with no opposition.

Valverde sits now in 2nd place overall – 14″ behind Roglic, whom he took four seconds back from after his bonus compared to the Slovenian’s second-place finish- with four days remaining in Dubai, including two uphill finishes. Wednesday will bring another flat route with a sting at the tail, the sprint to be held on the slopes of the Hatta dam, up to 17% into the final 300 meters. … continued after advert

Alejandro Valverde: “I wanted to get this first victory so badly. I knew that it would be hard because of the strong field racing here, but I felt well and, above all, measured my efforts well. There was so much wind, more than what’s normal here, and I knew that those who launched their attacks too early could pay in the end. That’s why I knew Roglic’s initial acceleratino was a bit too early. You had to be really cautious, remain inside the group and jump closer to the finish, not earlier than the spot where I went for it last year.

“I waited for that straight, just next to the climb’s hotel, and I went on full steam to catch Daniel Martin. I caught some air and then I went for the rest. I knew Roglic was so strong, and even if I was confident about my chances, felt well during the climb, even better with the attack – I didn’t really know after all if I could make it back to them. If they weren’t cooperating so well, then I stood a chance – and that’s what happened”.

“It’s incredible, I’m so proud to be able to take this first victory in the rainbow jersey, even more so in a WorldTour race like the UAE Tour, against big competitors. And it is mainly because of my team, because they worked so hard during the last three days. This victory is also a tribute to my uncle Diego, who passed away a few days ago – I always held him dear and I hope that, wherever he is, this means something big to him. For the time being, we’ve already got a victory, we’ve fulfilled a big goal here. The GC? It’s difficult. If we end up having a chance, great; if not, it’s not such a big deal. Of course we’ll fight for it, but we must tackle things one day at a time, starting with tomorrow’s uphill finish.”
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Primoz Roglic (Jumbo Visma) was full of praise for his teammates. “In addition to defending my classification, I also tried to win the stage. The stage win was not successful, but I did a great job GC-wise. I am here for the first time and did not know the climb. So I just climbed it as fast as possible. I have not been able to do all this without the massive work of my teammates. Their work gave me a lot of confidence and extra strength. They were all very strong today and everything went according to plan.”

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Dan Martin (UAE Emirates): “The climb was very fast,” said Martin (photo Bettini) “There was a tail-wind and we had a strong push thanks to it. We wanted to win here today, like in every stage this week in our team’s home race, but I couldn’t give any more. It’s not what I wanted, clearly, but I’m happy all the same with my performance.

“My team-mates worked incredibly well for me and we are showing a true group spirit. Fernando won yesterday and today he was at the front in the wind for us, this shows that we are fighting together to get the best possible result for the team”.

Regarding the overall classification, there are still some complicated days ahead to race, especially with the wind, and for this reason we are going to take it day by day.”

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James Knox  After a 2018 season he described as a tough but important learning curve, James Knox is on the edge of breakthrough, just two months into his second year with the pros and in a World Tour race which boasts a star-studded field.

Dosing his effort carefully, the 23-year-old managed to remain with the more experienced riders and even had enough left in the legs to sprint out of the last corner and take his second top 10 finish at World Tour level, a result which helped him move up to ninth in the overall classification. Twenty seconds in arrears, teammate Remco Evenepoel – who was dropped with six kilometers remaining, but found the resources to limit the losses and even make up ground – concluded the stage in an impressive 15th place, ahead of several GC contenders.

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“I’m very happy with today’s result and very pleased with how I performed, as I did more than I thought I could do”, a smiling James said after his outstanding result on the 10.8km-long climb which had a maximum gradient of 11%.

“To come eighth, ahead of so many big names, riders around I’ve never been around before, makes me very content. Together with Dries and Remco, I had a free role from the team today and gave it a go. The start of the climb was difficult, but I managed to claw my way back to the main group. Then, in the last kilometers, I was suffering, but stayed there and had a bit of sprint to finish inside the top 10, which gives me a lot of satisfaction.”

Stage 3
1. Alejandro Valverde
2. Primoz Roglic
3. David Gaudu

5. Dan Martin
8. James Knox
59. Peter Kennaugh
80. Sam Brand
90. Mark Cavendish
120. Adam Blythe
125. Dan Mclay

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