As early as stage three of the Vuelta a Andalucia Ciclista Ruta del Sol, Alejandro Valverde had predicted that the race would not be won on the stage four time trial - as had been widely predicted - but in the long, grinding ascent to the summit finish of Peñas Blancas on stage 5. And the Movistar team leader’s prediction ultimately proved 100 percent correct, as he soared away seven kilometres from the finish of the Peñas Blancas climb to claim his fourth outright win in the Vuelta a Andalucia in five years.
Valverde’s mastery of Andalucia is such that his previous total of three outright wins in the early season stage race, in 2012, 2013 and 2014 was already a record, and Sunday was his seventh stage win of his career. But either way, his outright victory number four was the most memorable and satisfactory of all of them.
“It was looking harder than ever after yesterday’s time trial,” Valverde told reporters after the final podium ceremony of the race. “But I managed to do it, which made it a very satisfying win altogether.”
“I felt good all the way during the stage, so I decided to try from quite a way out,” he revealed. “That was good for both the day’s win and the overall. I saw the rest were not looking particularly strong, and I knew that if I wanted to win it overall, I had no choice but to make a long-distance attack.”
Knowing the stage finish from a few years back in the Vuelta a España was not, he said, an advantage,”because that year I wasn’t going very well at that point, and I finished a lot further back! What was a real help was checking the climb out before the Vuelta a Andalucia this year, so we knew what was coming up.”
Valverde explained his curiously lowkey fashion of crossing the finish line with no celebratory raising of his arms, “because I had time references [over the radio], but I didn’t trust what I was being told.” - which would have been that he had gained nearly 20 seconds in a kilometre on his chasers and then all but tripled that lead at one point. “I just went for it all the way, 100 percent,” he concluded.
Valverde dedicated the win to Adriano Malori, his Movistar team-mate who suffered a bad accident in the Tour de San Luis and who is still recovering from his injuries. “It’s totally for him, and for the support I’ve had from the team, too.”
The Spanish champion will now go on to Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and then Milano-Sanremo, prior to an unprecedented assault on the northern Classics in Belgium.