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Valverde's Vuelta dream fades

Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took the overall lead

Spain's Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took the overall lead (Image credit: Unipublic)

Until Thursday's stage 12, Alejandro Valverde was still in serious contention for the general classification at the Vuelta a España. However, he lost contact with the favourites' group on the final descent of the day with about 50 km to go, and when Astana and Euskaltel noticed that he had fallen off the back, they mercilessly picked up the speed in order to drop him once and for all.

The winner of stage two lost 3:23 on the day and dropped from fourth to eleventh overall, most likely burying his chances of the overall win at 4:19 down.

Valverde fell back on the descent from the Alto del Caracol and ended up in a following group instead of the lead group of chasers that eventually caught the day's break. Nearly his whole Caisse d'Epargne team dropped back to try and close the rapidly growing gap, but their efforts were in vain against the Euskaltel and Astana teams, who turned on the speed when they noticed the gap.

"It is a fact that I am not happy with what happened today but now I will have to react and try to do something in the following stages," said Valverde.

"While climbing the last hill I went to the team car to take a raincoat and as a consequence on the downhill I was in the back of the group. We did our best to try to come back in the first group but of course they were doing the same in the leading group and from then on the goal was to lose as little time as possible."

"What happened today is a big disappointment for all the team," said director Eusebio Unzúe. "'Til today, Alejandro had possibilities to fight to win the Vuelta and because of an error and not being where he should at the right time, we have lost all the possibilities we had.

"Everybody was controlling him and when they saw he was in the group behind, they took advantage of the situation to attack. We reacted the best way we could but of course many teams were collaborating in the front group and it was not possible for us to come back."

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