World champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continued his consistent start to the season with yet another podium place at the Vuelta Murcia, although the Spaniard's search for a first win the rainbow jersey in 2019 continues.
Valverde finished second to Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) on the second and final day of racing in Murcia with the Movistar rider finishing the race second overall, once again behind Sanchez. Valverde, 38, has now racked up 10 top-10 finishes this season - split between one day races, stages and overall classifications, with half of those results consisting of podium finishes.
On the final stage in Murica, Valverde went on the attack after his Movistar team set the pace on the final climb before the finish. The world champion attacked before the summit but was caught by Luis Leon Sanchez on the descent. The pair initially worked together but with Astana already holding the race lead through Pello Bilbao, the onus was on Valverde to drive the pace. This dynamic allowed Sanchez to sit back and save himself for the sprint. Despite not winning Valverde, who like Sanchez, was racing on home road saw the race as a positive experience.
"Racing in my home region with this jersey on for the last two days already was a victory for me. Every race I take the start of has that special feeling in the rainbow colours," Valverde said in press release.
"If I'm able to win after that, it's even better, but I feel like we're doing just fine at the moment. Runner-up in Valencia, second again here - we're still missing a victory, but I'm close, and my legs on the climbs feel really good, close or even better than the strongest guys uphill.
"At the Cresta del Gallo, I knew Luis could make up some terrain against me in the downhill, but I had to give it a try with all I had. I jumped solo, though the gap I had built wasn't enough for Luis not to catch me. We had a couple of good turns together as he caught me, but later on, he started saving more energy because he still had the race leader behind from his own team and couldn't continue to push.
"That energy I spent in the end helped him win. In the end, it's one-two for our Murcia region, just like last year, in both the stage and overall - it's good to have someone from here win and continue to show some of the best cyclists in the world are from Murcia."
Valverde, a five-time winner of Murcia, will next line up at the UAE Tour, before a clutch of one-day races that include Milan-San Remo. This year, he will target the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a España.