Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) started the 14th stage of the Vuelta a España in second place overall and finished the day in the same position despite conceding time to his major GC rivals. Valverde was unable to hold on to Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and the other GC riders on the steepest part of the final two kilometres of the climb on La Camperona when the gradient touched 15%.
He lost 22 seconds to Contador and is now at 42 seconds. Froome is third at 1:13, with Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) fourth at 1:29.
"I've lost a bit of time but it’s not very important," Valverde said after the stage. "The truth is I didn't know the climb but it was a real hard one. The asphalt was rough. I'm still happy with the result. [Chris] Froome has demonstrated today that he’ll be dangerous in the coming stages."
Stage 15 is set to be another decisive day for the GC riders with the final climb to Lagos de Covadonga certain to rearrange the GC once again but Valverde will have a different approach to the day then he has previously at this Vuelta.
"We'll go step by step," he said. "We have two important days ahead, tomorrow at the Lagos, which a totally different climb than today, so rather than attacking, I'll follow others, either Froome or Purito [Joaquim Rodriguez]."
Valverde has already worn the red race leader's jersey on two occasions at the race, won a stage and was part of the Movistar team which won the opening team time trial in Jerez.
The 34-year-old added that the riders who currently occupy that the top GC positions are all in similar form and expects a hard fought final week to decide the winner of the race.
"We're four or five riders pretty much at the same level," he said. "From now on the race will be hard."
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