Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) did not have his best Vuelta a España stage 16 on the Farrapona, where he lost the King of the Mountains jersey, missed out on the time bonuses with a fourth place and came within a whisker of dropping to third overall. But despite losing time to both Alberto Contador (TInkoff-Saxo) and Chris Froome (Team Sky), the Spaniard preferred to take a longer-term view of things.
Dropped when Froome attacked four kilometres from the line, Valverde crossed the line 55 seconds down on Contador and 40 seconds down on Froome. But if an assault on Contador’s overall lead now looks considerably less likely than 24 hours ago, Valverde remains in second, 1:36 down on the Tinkoff-Saxo rider and three seconds ahead of Froome.
“There’s still the last week to go and anything can happen,” Valverde told Biciciclismo. “Froome still has to cut back time to be second. He’s going very well, but he has one good day and then one that’s not so good.”
He denied that they might have lost an opportunity at the Lagos de Covadonga to eliminate Froome from the running, saying “he wouldn’t have lost much more time than he did.”
As for the Farrapona stage, Valverde recognised that it was a question of damage limitation. “Contador has raced very well, Froome went off very fast and he could follow him. Behind I tried chasing down Purito, but he wasn’t in a very good place either and we just did what we could.”
Valverde may well find Wednesday’s second cat climb to Monte Castrove, where he could perhaps use his fast uphill sprint to snatch back time bonus, to his liking.