Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) said that his ‘sensations’ weren’t quite where he had wanted them to be on the queen stage of the UAE Tour to Jebel Jais, though he said he felt better than expected after having a fever the night before the stage.
Given the flatter run to the finish line and his performance on Jebel Hafeet, Valverde had been one of the pre-stage favourites to take victory on Jebel Jais and perhaps even challenge Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) for overall victory.
The stage didn’t start well, with Valverde getting caught up in a crash at kilometre zero, but the veteran Spaniard was with the lead group as they approached the finish line. However, he didn’t contest the sprint and rolled across the line in fifth place.
“It was a really fast climb. I felt better than I expected because I had a weird night, with a fever, so I'm pretty content with how everything turned out,” Valverde said.
“My level was pretty good. I was lacking a little bit of a spark. It's been a beautiful race, but really demanding, with the wind and, like I said, today the sensations weren't bad, because if they were I wouldn't have been there, but nor were they where I would have liked them to be.”
Valverde goes into the final day of racing still in second place but with a larger deficit of 31 seconds to Roglic. The Slovenian won atop Jebel Jais having finished second to Valverde on Jebel Hafeet and third on Hatta Dam, while leading the competition right from the start.
Valverde said that he had not been surprised by Roglic’s performance this week.
“Not at all. He has already proven that he's really in shape, that he's really good, and he proved that again,” he said.
Like several of the riders at the UAE Tour, including Roglic, Valverde is preparing for the Giro d’Italia in May. Each of the Giro d’Italia contenders has had varying levels of success in the Middle East, and Valverde says that it has been hard to garner anything about them with over two months still to run.
“Not really,” he said when asked if he’d learned anything about his rivals. “There's still a long way to go until the Giro and everything can still change a lot.”