Alejandro Valverde has had what can only be described as a roller coaster Tour de France. He spent most of the first two weeks sitting snugly in a podium position. Things were looking rosy for Valverde, before it all fell down around his ankles in the high winds on stage 13. Since then the Movistar captain has been fighting to salvage his race.
His stage 17 time trial performance between Embrun and Chorges went some way to doing that. "It was a very good time trial for me and I am very happy," he said moments after crossing the finish line.
"It was very technical and very hard. I had the mentality that I would just wait and see what happened and I liked it a lot. Sometimes you can have bad luck in a time trial, but it was very good for me. The ride to the top of the first climb was good, but I was very conscious of the descent and getting close to the barriers. The final kilometres were ok and then I just sprinted to the line."
The Movistar rider's fifth place moved him within striking distance of a top 10 spot. Valverde sits just under two and a half minutes back on Dan Martin, who is currently keeping hold of tenth position.
"I did well today," said Valverde, indicating towards his earlier performances at the race. "But this is the Tour and I want to do better." With several mountain finishes in the coming days the Spaniard is hoping to add another victory to his palmarès, before the Tour is out. "I will have to see if I can do it like last year," said Valverde. "But you can have a mechanical problem and then you end up finishing in the second group."
Rodríguez focussed on Alpe d'Huez
Despite the climbing involved in the second individual time trial, it was expected that Joaquim Rodríguez would be taking part in damage limitation rather than contesting the top positions. The Katusha rider has been less than impressive this year in the race against the clock, but he pulled it out of the bag on this occasion. For a little over 10 minutes Rodríguez found himself in the hot seat until he was ousted by Alberto Contador and finally settled into third, when Chris Froome finished. "I did a lot better than I had hoped for," said the Spaniard. "It went really well and it's not what I expected."
Rodríguez has looked on much better form since the weekend and the result sees him move up another place in the general classification, from seventh to sixth. There is plenty of terrain to suit him much better on the cards for the coming days, which makes him feel more positive as the race moves on. "I am sad that I couldn't move up further today, but I would still like to do more."
With that in mind, Rodríguez has set his sights on glory at the top of the Alpe d'Huez. "This is what we want and we will be fighting for it," he said. "It will be very difficult to win in the finish, but I think I am with the best in the world. What person wouldn't want to win on the Alpe d'Huez? It would be a very big win."
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