Keep the faith. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) continues to believe that, despite looking stronger than ever at this point in a Grand Tour, Vuelta a España leader Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) could yet come unstuck in the sierras of Madrid next weekend.
After losing time to the Slovenian on Monday’s mountain stage, Valverde nonetheless remains Roglič's closest rival, 2:48 back, with five days of racing remaining.
Speaking in a press conference on Tuesday morning on the Vuelta's second rest day, the 39-year-old world champion saw his glass as half full ahead of the third week.
"It's true we lost some time yesterday, and it wasn't my best day, but if I look at the day before [where Valverde broke away with Roglič on the Acebo – ed.] it went a lot better," Valverde said.
"I'm going into this final week feeling optimistic."
Valverde is not only concentrating on defending his second place; he believes Roglič could, yet, have a bad day in the third week. But he emphasised that was only one option on the table.
"Anything can happen. The leader could have a bad day or we could lose time. Third weeks in Grand Tours can cause problems for anybody," Valverde said.
"We have to be realistic, and Roglič is going very well, but sometimes we've seen him crack at this point in a race."
A podium finisher at the Vuelta back in 2003, Valverde's perspective on the Spanish Grand Tour is longer than any other rider present this year, and he recognised that finishing second at 39 years of age, should Roglič not fall apart, "would be a great reward in any case".
Valverde is basing his hopes that Roglič come unstuck on the moment where the Slovenian briefly failed to chase down Miguel Angel López towards the summit of La Cubilla on Monday's stage 16.
Whilst Roglič has said that, rather than being interested in shadowing López and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), he was on Valverde watch and when he realised the Spanish veteran was suffering, he quickly chased down the Colombian and his compatriot.
But more than Roglič's brief blip of inaction, Movistar's hopes are based on the difficulty of the third week of Grand Tours in general. In that respect, the Vuelta is no exception.
That's something Tom Dumoulin – Roglič's future teammate and the last leader of a Dutch team in the third week here back in 2015, when he was finally defeated by Fabio Aru – knows only too well.
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.