Although Alberto Contador received most of the media attention after Wednesday’s spectacular attack en route to Fuente Dé, Alejandro Valverde performed no less well, charging away from the crumbling Joaquim Rodríguez group to move up to second overall at the Vuelta a España.
The Movistar rider had settled for third in Madrid prior to Wednesday, but his tenacious counter-attack saw him come within six seconds of catching Contador on the stage and move up one place overall. It also re-confirmed Movistar’s domination of the teams classification.
"I’ve done a good job and I’m pleased," Valverde - who only came to the Vuelta as a last-minute replacement as leader for Juan Jose Cobo, who had fallen ill - said afterwards.
"Contador caught us all napping and it was impossible to catch him. But getting two and a half minutes on 'Purito', plus the time bonus - that’s good."
Valverde said that Contador attacked on the second category Collado de la Hoz, "and we were always 10 to 15 seconds down on him, but where the gap really started to open up was on the descent."
"My race was different to theirs, because I was going fine because I could drop [Chris] Froome." - on paper, his challenger for the third spot overall.
After dropping Rodríguez "I never thought I could catch Contador, but on the first hard section of climb, I went for it anyway, thinking about the overall more than anything else. I’m sorry for 'Purito', but racing is like that."
Overall, as Valverde said, "it’s almost impossible to improve on such a good result for us. We had Rodríguez two minutes ahead of us and now we’re ahead of him."
"It’s been a very tough day, but even so it’s been perfect for us, although I’d like tomorrow to be easier, please!"