While Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) skipped away to stage one victory at Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was a key protagonist as he finished the day 13 seconds behind his compatriot.
Wearing number one for the race in the absence of teammate and defending champion Nairo Quintana, Valverde already has seven victories to his name in 2014 and came close to making it eight.
"It was a day to take chances, because the team worked so much all day and I had good legs. I jumped away, felt strong, and Alberto was the only one who could follow me," Valverde explained on his team's website. "Initially I felt confident, because I was seeing he wasn't doing so well, but he attacked in the end of the climb and it was kind of unexpected for me."
With Movistar commanding the main bunch and controlling the four-man breakaway, Valverde was well positioned before the ascent of the final climb of the day. The cat 2 Alto de Gaintza which is over 2km in length with sections that reach 27%.
Valverde tried his luck by launching an attack which was only followed by Contador. With the Tinkoff-Saxo rider sitting on his wheel, Valverde was looking the stronger of the two but he said that when 'El Pisterolo' made his bid for victory, he could not match the acceleration.
"There was a strong headwind and I couldn't close the gap. I wasn't thinking he would open such a big gap, but these 15 seconds will count - they're always important in one-week stage races, where everything is down to a few of them."
With several tough stages still to come, Valverde isn't giving up the fight just yet but tipped his hat to the stronger rider on the day.
"We gave it all for the win, but we must remain happy with second. Contador was better than us - we can just congratulate him and fight back tomorrow. Gaps are still small and there are many hard days ahead, starting with tomorrow."
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