Valverde, Hermans take the spoils, Armstrong returns - Weekend Wrap

Alejandro Valverde and Lance Armstrong on the podiums of races? Don’t worry you’re not having flashback to the mid-2000s but both riders made the headlines this week with Valverde coming out on top in the Ruta del Sol and Armstrong getting the US Postal band back together for a reunion at the 24 Hours of Old Pueblo.

There were also wins for the promising Primoz Roglic, while Ben Hermans and Arthur Vichot also took impressive GC titles in Oman and Haut-var, respectively.

Ruta del Sol

Following an action packed opening three days at the Ruta del Sol, the weekend stages saw Alejandro Valverde successfully defended his one-second lead over Alberto Contador during the final two stages, claiming his 100th professional victory.

Saturday’s stage 4 was one for the sprinters with Bryan Coquard doubling his early-season tally on Spanish soil. The Direct Energie sprinter got the better of Daniel Hoelgaard (FDJ) and Hugo Hofstetter (Cofidis).

Sunday’s final stage saw the spoils go to Tim Wellens. The Lotto Soudal rider outfoxed his breakaway companions at the Coín finish with Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) in second place.

Back in the peloton, there was little action with Valverde having a relaxed day despite his slender lead over Contador. When the peloton arrived almost two minutes after the breakaway, Valverde, Contador and third-place finisher Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) were all in the front group to ensure no change to the overall podium.

Click here for full results, report and gallery. 

Tour of Oman

Having won the first hill top finish at the Tour of Oman, Ben Hermans stamped his authority on the race by winning the stage to Green Mountain. The BMC Racing rider rode away from Fabio Aru (Astana) and Rui Costa (UAE Abu Dhabi) after Merhawi Kudus and his Dimension Data teammate Lachlan Morton had lit up the early slopes of the climb.

Hermans proved to have the strongest legs and took his second stage of the race to further extend his overall race lead.

Sunday’s final stage saw Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) take his third stage of the race with the Norwegian outkicking Eduard Grosu (Nippo-Vini Fantini) and Sacha Modolo (UAE Abu Dhabi).

The windy sixth and final stage saw Katusha and BMC take control, with their ambitions to set it up for the sprint finish, and protecting Hermans’ lead respectively. There was a tense moment when Hermans crashed at the base of the Al Hamriyah climb but he was able to remount and finish safely in the bunch, securing the overall victory.

Click here for a full recap of all the action in Oman.

24 Hours of Old Pueblo

He may be serving a lifetime ban for doping offences but that didn't stop Lance Armstrong from competing in the non-UCI sanctioned 24 Hours of Old Pueblo at the weekend.

The disgraced Texan took part in the race as part of a four-man relay team that included ex US-Postal teammates, Dylan Casey, George Hincapie and Christian Vande Velde. The foursome – with a combined age of 173 – managed third in the race, with the title going to the "Nine Inch Males" Team (Kalan Beisel, Kyle Trudeau, Nick Gould, Brand Aven) won the category with a total of 24 laps.

Click here for a gallery and report from the event.

Volta ao Algarve

Like the Ruta del Sol, the Volta ao Algarve was front packed with action from the off, so that by the weekend it was a matter of defence across two days of non-GC threatening racing.

Primoz Roglic’s second place up Alto da Fóia, and third place the following day in the Sagres time trial had elevated the Slovenian of LottoNL-Jumbo into the leader’s jersey with Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski the most likely challenger at 22 seconds.

Saturday’s photo finish sprint in Tavira saw Andre Greipel get the better of compatriot John Degenkolb.

Sunday’s Malhão stage belonged to Amaro Antunes (W52/FC Porto) as the 26-year-old Portuguese rider put on a show for the home fans. He attacked the climb with one kilometre to go and held off the peloton for a famous home win. Behind Antunes, Kwiatkowski and Team Sky set a blistering pace to try and drop Roglic but the Slovenian matched the Pole, pedal stroke for pedal stroke. Kwiatkowski managed to steal one second off Roglic at the finish line but it wasn’t enough to unseat him from the yellow jersey.

The win was Roglic's first GC victory in LottoNL-Jumbo colours and third in his career, following his overall Tour de Slovénie and Tour d'Azerbaïdjan victories in 2015.

Click here for results and reports.

Tour de Haut-var

Arthur Vichot's strong start to the 2017 season continued with the Frenchman finishing second, and third on the two-stage race to claim a third overall title.

Stage 1 to Saint-Paul-en-Forêt was won by AG2R-La Mondiale’s Samuel Dumoulin, ahead of Vichot and Maxime Vantomme (WB Veranclassic Aqua Protect).

To secure the yellow jersey, Vichot had to ensure he finished ahead of Dumoulin on the Draguignan to Draguignan stage. The French national champion did just that with Dumoulin placed well back in 22nd. Julien Simon’s stage win - his and Cofidis’ first for the season - elevated him onto the podium with Romain Hardy (Fortuneo - Vital Concept) moving up from sixth to third place.

Vichot is now level with Joop Zoetemelk on three career wins at the early-season French race but he is the first rider to have won the event three times since it became a multi-day race back in 2008.

Click here for results and report.

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