Volta a Catalunya: Valverde ready to pounce after second place on stage 2

World champion narrowly avoids Froome crash; looks forward to Wednesday's summit finish

At 38 years old – and turning 39 next month – Movistar's Alejandro Valverde continues to demonstrate his diversity, sprinting to second place behind winner Michael Matthews (Sunweb) on the uphill finish to Tuesday's second stage at the Volta a Catalunya before now turning his attention to Wednesday's summit finish on the Vallter 2000 climb.

Valverde also only narrowly missed the crash that brought down Team Sky's Chris Froome and Bora-Hansgrohe pair Jay McCarthy and Andreas Schillinger with 40km left of stage 2 to go.

"It was a very dangerous, twisty finale," Valverde said of Tuesday's stage in a team press release. "After the first passage through the finish line, into a small descent before the final kilometre and the last straight, there was a crash with Froome and a Bora rider.

"I was riding just behind Froome, and even though I didn't touch either him or the Bora rider, the latter's bike hit my left hand and caused a small cut, which hurts quite a bit," he explained.

The road race world champion may have been unable to beat Matthews in the subsequent sprint finish, but has now moved up from fourth to second place overall, having also taken the bonus seconds at the final intermediate sprint with just 7km left of the stage to race, which knocked another three seconds off his overall time.

Valverde will now concentrate on potentially taking the race lead on stage 3's summit finish at Vallter 2000 on Wednesday. The Spanish rider still trails race leader Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) by 2:47, but that could very easily be erased – or very nearly erased, at least – on the day's final climb.

Teammate Nairo Quintana, who took a two-second time bonus for having finished second behind Valverde at the final intermediate sprint, is also poised to take the race lead and secure a good overall finish in Barcelona next Monday, and is currently in sixth place overall, nine seconds behind Valverde.

The chances of either Valverde or Quintana taking the race lead by the end of Wednesday afternoon are high, but that will require at least one of them outmanoeuvring the likes of Jumbo-Visma's Steven Kruijswijk and Team Sky's Egan Bernal, who both sit just a second behind Quintana within the top 10 overall, while Romain Bardet (AG2R) and Groupama-FDJ's Thibaut Pinot are a further second back, in 19th and 25th, respectively.

"My body is reacting well to the recent efforts," Valverde said, "and the team is working perfectly, so let's see what we can do in Vallter tomorrow [Wednesday]."

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