Valverde stays in Vuelta overall contention on a day of echelons

Spain's Alejandro Valverde was lying second overall in the Tour de France this summer when he lost contact because of a broken back wheel. The timing was unfortunate - echelons were forming and his chances of a first-ever podium in a French Grand Tour were blown.

This time, though, as echelons formed on stage 17 today in the Vuelta a Espana, Valverde stayed with the front group and came through with this third place overall unscathed.

"I always knew it was going to be a hard stage, and that it was very unlikely it would be decided in a bunch sprint," Valverde, 15th on the stage and protected by teammates Jose Herrada and Javi Moreno, said afterwards.

"We knew there was a dangerous bend, everybody did, but then when the headwind changed direction, it made it even more likely that something would happen. But I had to be attentive, and when we knew that [Domenico] Pozzovivo (AG2R) and Thibaut Pinot (Fdj.Fr) had been dropped from the front group, it was always going to be very fast all the way to the finish and it was all about being well-positioned and staying out of trouble."

Valverde talked about tomorrow's stage to Peña Cabarga, "It will be a very different kind of race. The really decisive stages are coming now."

"I've never been up Peña Cabarga, and I hope it suits me. Although I know almost all the finales of this year's Vuelta, there were some that I didn't, and one was Peña Cabarga. After the Tour, I preferred to rest and train calmly. But if you're going well, not knowing a climb isn't a problem."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.