Vuelta a España race leader Alejandro Valverde has said that he had no idea at all what had happened to Movistar teammate and co-leader Nairo Quintana during Saturday’s eighth stage when the Colombian was briefly dropped in the crosswinds.
“It’s virtually impossible to tell what’s going on, there’s so much noise and it’s always very fraught,” Valverde told Spanish tv, “I heard something over the radio, but I couldn’t look back.
“We could see it coming. It was a crazy finish, fortunately everybody was very attentive and the team looked after me brilliantly to make sure there weren’t any problems.”
Valverde might have been on the right side of the echelon. And given how high a price he had paid when he missed out on another big split in a Grand Tour - on a stage of the 2013 Tour de France, losing nearly 15 minutes - his satisfaction was understandable.
Quintana, however, almost lost his second place overall behind Valverde as a result of the final split of the day, losing contact 10 kilometres from the line and returning to the front group mainly thanks to Giant-Shimano working to bring the two pelotons together.
One secret of racing well in echelons is being prepared to fight a little selfishly, Valverde said, “everybody’s looking for their own spot, we’re rivals after all.”
On summit finishes in this year’s Vuelta, so far Valverde is the man to beat. Tomorrow’s stage finish at Valdelinares, he says, is a “good sort of climb for me,” - much less steep than La Zubia on stage 6, where Valverde won, although nearly twice as long. “I’m looking forward to it.”
His negotiations to sign a new contract with Movistar, Valverde said, “are nearly done. We have a few minor details to resolve, but it’s going well. I think I’m staying here.”