After his performance in the Clasica San Sebastian, few would have believed it was Alejandro Valverde's first race back after breaking his collarbone during the third stage of the Tour de France, a little over one month ago.
When Carlos Sastre, Iban Mayo and Denis Menchov left the field behind on the Alto de Jaizkibel, Alejandro Valverde virtually single-handedly contained the break's lead to no more than 20 seconds. Over the top, his Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne team-mates Iván Gutiérrez, Vladimir Karpets and Pablo Lastras took over from their leader to progressively close the gap, which they did with less than five kilometres to go.
When it came to the bunch sprint, Valverde was the big favourite, but he and the rest of the field were upstaged by a Bouygues Telecom's Xavier Florencio, with the former finishing eighth. "The sprint was a really crazy one," said Valverde.
"In the last curve, I tried to pass on the right side but I was closed in, and after that, it was no longer possible for me to come to the front. I feel very sorry, because my team-mates did a fantastic job today and they really deserve a win to crown it. Anyway, I really want to thank them for what they did for me today."
Continued Valverde, "I had very good sensations during the whole day. I am really satisfied, because it was a very fast race and I was perfectly able to resist, even if I started without having the rhythm of the race in my legs. I rode the whole race in front, and that is of course an excellent signal before the Tour of Spain. It will start in two weeks from now from Malaga and that gives me enough margin to find perfect condition."