Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) took the opening stage of the 63rd Vuelta Ciclista a Andalucía today and is now just one win away from his 100th professional victory.
A break consisting of Daniel Turek (Israel Cycling Academy), Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto Soudal), Florian Senechal (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits), Berden De Vries (Roompot – Nederlandse Loterij), Georg Preidler (Team Sunweb), Pablo Torres Muiño (Burgos BH) and Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-Rusvelo) broke clear shortly after the start in Malaga.
They gained a maximum lead of four and a half minutes before the peloton started to work. They were reeled in with 34 kilometres left.
Halfway up the final Category 1 climb of the Alto de Monachil, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) attacked with Valverde chasing him. He made it across along with Wout Poels and Mikel Landa (Team Sky) amongst others. There were more attacks over these closing kilometres but none were successful and it would result in six riders arriving to the finish together.
Valverde proved fastest in the sprint to take the win ahead of Poels and Sébastien Reichenbach (FDJ) which was his eighth victory in the race.
Alejandro Valverde: “We couldn’t have started things off in a better way. For the time being, we’ve got a stage win – everything that comes after this is a gift for us. We knew that Contador would be doing well, and he showed he was willing to fight when his team started to take the reigns of the peloton without asking anyone to help them out. He played his cards and really made the difference, yet we defended ourselves well. When we were the two of us alone at the front, it was complicated to keep pushing because his attacks left no room to breathe. Plus, there was a group with three Sky riders pulling, which made it difficult to escape.
“At the end, I decided to give it a try myself into the last slope and I opened a bit of a gap, but it was difficult to make it grow and finish solo, so I chose to wait for Ion and Alberto, who were coming close behind. I was keeping in mind that I was the fastest into such a field sprint, and at the end it was a good result for us – it’s the win that counts here.
“GC-wise, we don’t have any real, strict goals. We’re in pole position, yet our rivals are going to be really strong, and the next two stages will change things a lot. The whole route on Thursday is very demanding, finishing off with such a difficult climb. It might be good for my chances, but anyone from those who made the front group today can do well either. And then the ITT on Friday, which has only 12 kilometers, but it will be really hard, too.”