Of all the top finishers at Lagos de Covadonga, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) was probably one of the most satisfied, claiming second on the Vuelta a España stage 15, shedding Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and reinforcing his second place overall.
The veteran from Murcia has never finished lower than fifth in the Vuelta since 2003 and is now, thanks to his cautious racing style at Covadonga, just 31 seconds behind Contador.
Furthermore, after receiving salvos of criticism for attacking so early and then all but cracking on the Camperona on stage 14, this time round he was clearly determined not to make the same mistake. So he opted instead for a ride that was anything but aggressive, prior to a final kilometre dash for the line where he and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) gained a handful of seconds on Contador.
"I wanted to race conservatively," Valverde said afterwards, "I didn't want to run out of legs by the top so I took things a lot slower. I was also looking for the time bonus."
His reasoning behind a notable lack of collaboration with Rodriguez and Contador in a hypothetical joint bid to sink Chris Froome (Sky) was that "we didn't talk that much. In any case, I didn't trust either of them very much.
"Everyone did their own thing," he added on a team press release. "They were always attacking: firstly one, then the other... Purito [Rodriguez] tried it in the final slopes, Alberto jumped away lots of times... Froome also rode as usual in this race, looking not as strong as usual but still keeping the pace."
He also said that after one of his teammates, Jonathan Castroviejo, crashed on the descent of the Tornos - thankfully the Vuelta's first leader was uninjured, although the sight of his bike, minus the rider, on the side of the road next to a woodland near-precipice was a chilling one - "we opted to take things a lot slower on the downhill."
"Tomorrow's stage is tremendous, hellish. It will be really hard, and I just hope that we stay strong and don't have problems like Castro's again."
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