Valverde puts up solid defence in Giro d'Italia time trial

Less than 24 hours after demonstrating his climbing prowess on the gravel roads of Arezzo, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) turned in a solid performance in the Giro d'Italia's first long time trial that keeps the Spanish veteran in the thick of the battle for the maglia rosa.

Valverde took 22nd on the stage, just a few seconds down on Mikel Landa (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and is now sixth overall, 55 seconds down on race leader Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-QuickStep). Meanwhile Valverde's teammate Andrey Amador, fourth in the 2015 Giro d'Italia, finished an excellent 10th on the stage and has moved into third overall.

On a day when several riders crashed in the wet roads, Movistar management told Cyclingnews that Valverde had a couple of small scares when his bike skidded on some twisting descents. But despite the rain and the very technical course, the Spaniard's time trial was incident-free, and Valverde told reporters he was, overall, very satisfied with both the time trial and his race so far.

"I did the time trial in pretty much the same time as rivals like Nibali and Landa, and I've managed to put distance some distance between myself and some very important contenders, like [Rigoberto] Urán (Cannondale), [Ilnur] Zakarin (Katusha) and Estaban Chaves (Orica-GreenEdge);" Valverde said later.

"It was a very difficult route, with two or three really tricky, dangerous corners, but I came through it OK. I'm also very pleased for Andrey [Amador], it gives Movistar two riders to use in the overall. My legs feel very good, and hopefully I'll go on feeling the same after the rest day, too."

"It's been a good day," Movistar director Jose Luis Jaimerena told Cyclingnews, "and whilse it rained a lot, at least it rained equally hard on all the top contenders, so it was the same conditions for everybody."

Overall, Jaimerena said, the conclusions that could be drawn from the time trial were minor, because "there were no real surprises and things stand pretty much as they did before. That's logical, given most of the top contenders in this year's race are similar kinds of riders."

Whilse delighted with Amador and arguing, like Valverde, that this meant Movistar had two cards to play in the stages to come, Jaimerena warned the difficult part of the Giro d'Italia was just around the corner, starting with Tuesday's mountain top finish at Sestola. "They aren't the mountains people talk about the most in this year's Giro, but that stage can't be underestimated. It'll be difficult. We've got a rest day on Monday, but with a stage like that the day after, we won't be easing back too much on it."

Of all the top contenders, only Landa had done better than expected but Jaimerena argued that Nibali remained the key reference point of the Giro d'Italia. "Mikel did very well here, like a true Basque, he likes riding in the rain," Jaimerena said with a smile. "But I still think Nibali is the rider to beat."

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