Having finished third overall at the Giro d'Italia, Alejandro Valverde started the Tour de France with the clear ambition of helping Nairo Quintana in his bid for overall glory and Sueño Amarillo. Valverde's bid for victory in Cherbourg-Octeville on stage 2 could have been construed as the Spanish rider leaving his younger Colombian teammate to fend for himself on the uphill finish but he was quick to explain he found himself in position for the victory and simply went for it.
Valverde finished third to new yellow jersey holder Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) while Quintana was 17th at the same time in the 26-rider front group with bonus seconds propelling him to four seconds ahead on the GC.
"We couldn't take so many risks before the closing climbs; it wasn't worth for me since, while it's obvious that I could chase the stage win, everyone in this team has come to this Tour to help Nairo out," Valverde said. "He's 100,000 times better positioned than me and with a better shot at the Tour that I'll ever be. That said, into such a finish, with wide roads, it wasn't difficult for me to get in a good place, and once there, you just don't break - you've got to go for it."
The 36-year-old completed a career grand tour podium triple in May when he finished third at the Giro d'Italia as Movistar are placing its eggs in the Quintana basket following two second places overall from two starts. With the decisive general classification stages to come, the first week is largely one for the sprinters bar stage 2's Cherbourg-Octeville finish with Valverde keen to capitalise on his current form and condition.
"I was doing well before the last kilometer uphill, but I took the choice to following Matthews' wheel into the final 500 meters, and I got a bit boxed in from the left-hand side as I sought for my sprinting distance," said Valverde who won the opening stage of the 2008 Tour de France in nearby Brittany to also pull on the yellow jersey for two days. "I thought Matthews would be stronger into such a kick, and once I got past his wheel, the rivals in front of me, super fast guys like Sagan and Alaphilippe, were impossible to overtake."
After the stage, Valverde was asked about his status as a potential dark horse for the general classification. Last year's third place finisher brushed off the questions, reiterating his role in the 2016 Tour is as super domestique for Quintana.
"The dark horse? Seriously, I can't be a dark horse after 14 years as a pro. And I don't make any conclusions out of this third place. We're all behind Nairo," he concluded.
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