Three Vuelta a España stages ahead will be decisive, says Valverde

Second in the general classification of the Vuelta a Espana, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) recognises that even though Monday's mountain stage is the hardest, "all three of these days" - starting with Saturday's ascent to the Camperona - "could be decisive."

The Vuelta has two summit finishes in the third week, but Valverde seems to agree with the general feeling in the peloton that the three stages in Cantabria and Asturias this weekend will be more important than the final part of the race.

"More than worrying me, I feel respect for them, but at the same time I'm very motivated, because I think my legs are going well," Valverde said. "I hope at the very least that tomorrow I will be going as well as today."

"I'll have to try not to lose a single second and if I can get back time [on race leader Alberto Contador - Tinkoff-Saxo] then so much the better."

Like Contador, he has never been up the Camperona, "but some compare it to the Ezaro" - the legendary Galician climb with percentages of 30 percent - "and I can't believe it's that hard."

Friday's race route was not one that brought particularly happy memories for Valverde, even if it was more familiar than what awaits him on Saturday's stage. The Alto del Caracol, the final climb of stage 13, was where Valverde dropped behind in the 2008 Vuelta on the descent after going back to his team car as the race was splitting apart. Much to the frustration of his team management at the time, he finally lost three minutes.

"This time we came down a different side," he said with a brief attempt at a grin when asked about it by Spanish television, "but in any case that's forgotten."

"Today was a very fast stage throughout, right the way from the start. The break took a long time to form and then they wouldn't let them stay away, so all the time we were going at the speed of the break - very, very fast."

Movistar did a lot of the early work keeping the break under control, which raised some eyebrows. "We were chasing behind because there were a lot of riders in two separate groups and we didn't have anybody up there," Valverde said. "Then others took over."

"At the end there was the fight for the stage win, but I couldn't control everybody, it was one attack and then another. Finally I ended up following the other GC riders" - taking fourth and leading them in, five seconds behind stage winner Daniel Navarro (Cofidis).

In a team press release later, Valverde also sent his best wishes and condolences to the Pinarello family - their firm supplied his team's bikes until 2013 - following the recent death of Giovanni Pinarello, the founder of the bike company.

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