Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has made an unexpected return to the Vuelta lead on Sunday’s stage two, as the Spaniard finished 21st, ahead of team-mate and the previous holder of the top spot overall, Jonathan Castroviejo.
History, in fact, repeated itself, as back in 2012 when Movistar won the opening team time trial, two days later Valverde also succeeded Castroviejo as leader on stage three, albeit for just 24 hours before it was wrested from his shoulders by Joaquim Rodriguez. This time, Valverde has not had to wait so long, although as the veteran Spaniard said, he had had no intention of taking over from Castroviejo.
Spanish television even reported that prior to the finish Movistar had wanted another of their riders as leader but rather than Valverde or Quintana, their idea was to have another worker in the top spot. However, as Valverde put it, la roja had come into his clutches almost inevitably.
“I was on the team bus when they told me I was leader,” Valverde recalled, “so I got back off it again right away.”
“The thing is, you’ve got to be right at the front of the peloton to avoid any possible crashes and so on, and so I’ve got the leader’s jersey that way. I didn’t expect it.“
“If it had been a team-mate, though, I wouldn’t have minded. In fact, it would have been better. But I can’t complain at all. It’s better to be in a position where I’ve got a few seconds advantage over my rivals, than to be behind and for this to happen.”
As for whether he will keep la roja or try and pass it on to a team-mate, Valverde initially said he was “not sure. We’ll talk it over in the hotel, see what the team management think. Right now I haven’t even got any idea who’s second overall.”
However, given tomorrow’s [Monday’s] stage has a tricky, if short, uphill finish, Valverde later said he would be pleased to win there, which rather suggests that he will try and keep the lead at least for a day longer than Castroviejo. In fact, the 10 second time bonus for winning stage three could mean Valverde then stays in the lead until the summit finish La Zubia on stage six.
“Arcos de la Frontera [the stage three finish] is very complicated,” Valverde recognised, “but it’s the kind of finish I like.”