Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) claimed his first victory in 18 months at the Gran Premio Miguel Indurain, going clear on the steep Ibarra 'wall' to collect a record-equalling third title at the one-day race.
The 40-year-old, winner of more than 100 races, hadn't raised his arms since the 2019 Vuelta a España and the relief was palpable as he provided his team's first win of the season in their home region of Navarre and showed there's still life in his own career yet.
Valverde convincingly dropped the Astana duo of Alexey Lutsenko and Luis Leon Sanchez on the late Ibarra climb - 600 metres at 11 per cent - before safely negotiating the equally steep descent to the line.
"This victory is for everyone who has supported me. I'm super happy," Valverde said.
"Thanks to team. It was a complicated one but we tried to control the race from the start and we were able to come away with the win."
Valverde first hit out on the Alto de Eraul - 3.8km at 5.5 per cent - with 10km to do, quickly blowing apart a peloton that still counted 40 members. He accelerated again on the narrow streets at the top of the climb to get across to Sánchez, the last survivor from an earlier move.
Sánchez didn't work with him, since he had teammates Lutsenko and Omar Fraile in what became a 10-man chase group. Lutsenko attacked from it on the Alto de Muru - 1.3km at 4 per cent - but looked to have failed in his efforts when Valverde issued another vicious acceleration just as the Kazakh champion was on the verge of making contact. However, on the descent, Lutsenko did get there, and indeed flew past the Spanish duo to hit the Ibarra wall at full tilt.
The trio soon came back together and it wasn't long before Valverde - a five-time winner of La Flèche Wallonne - made the difference on the punishingly steep gradients.
Lutsenko crossed the line in second place at six seconds, followed by his teammate Sanchez 11 seconds later.
"Astana were one of the strongest teams - we knew that," Valverde said. "Obviously I was worried at the end there. Both of them are very very strong and I knew it would be complicated. Lutsenko went past very fast but we got back on and I was able to put in the final attack."
Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious), Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic), Krists Neilands (Israel Start-Up Nation), Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), and Fraile were all part of that chase group and finished 20 seconds down. Laurens De Plus (Ineos Grenadiers), who responded to Valverde's first acceleration on the Eraul, lost a little ground on Ibarra but still rounded out the top 10.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team||5:10:47|
|2||Alexey Lutsenko (Kaz) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:06|
|3||Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:15|
|4||Peio Bilbao Lopez De Armentia (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:17|
|5||Elie Gesbert (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:00:18|
|6||Krists Neilands (Lat) Israel Start-up Nation||0:00:21|
|7||Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo|
|8||Jesus Herrada (Spa) Cofidis|
|9||Omar Fraile Matarranz (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech|
|10||Laurens De Plus (Bel) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:30|
|11||Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Start-up Nation|
|12||Gino Mäder (Swi) Bahrain Victorious||0:00:31|
|13||Pierre Latour (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:00:49|
|14||Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis||0:00:53|
|15||Anthony Delaplace (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:00:54|
|16||Roger Adria Oliveras (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:00:59|
|17||Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo||0:01:03|
|18||Jesus Ezquerra Muela (Spa) Burgos-BH||0:01:04|
|19||Mathieu Burgaudeau (Fra) Total Direct Energie|
|20||Sebastian Henao Gomez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers|
|21||Julien Simon (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:01:06|
|22||Kevin Colleoni (Ita) Team BikeExchange|
|23||Simon Geschke (Ger) Cofidis|
|24||Jan Polanc (Slo) UAE Team Emirates||0:01:08|
|25||Jonathan Castroviejo Nicolas (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers|
|26||James Piccoli (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|27||Alejandro Osorio Carvajal (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|28||Urko Berrade Fernandez (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:01:14|
|29||Mikel Iturria Segurola (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:01:18|
|30||Frederico Figueiredo (Por) Efapel|
|31||Jose Felix Parra Cuerda (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:01:21|
|32||Alex Aranburu Deba (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:01:25|
|33||Julien Bernard (Fra) Trek-Segafredo|
|34||Cristian Rodriguez Martin (Spa) Total Direct Energie|
|35||Carlos Verona Quintanilla (Spa) Movistar Team|
|36||Nathan Brown (USA) Rally Cycling||0:01:34|
|37||Ben Swift (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:01:42|
|38||Winner Anacona (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:01:59|
|39||Jonathan Lastra Martinez (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA||0:02:05|
|40||Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team BikeExchange||0:02:13|
|41||Luis Angel Mate Mardones (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:02:22|
|42||Ion Izagirre Insausti (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:02:46|
|43||Nicola Conci (Ita) Trek-Segafredo||0:03:40|
|44||Fernando Barceló Aragon (Spa) Cofidis||0:04:50|
|45||Anthony Perez (Fra) Cofidis|
|46||Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates|
|47||Jefferson Cepeda Ortiz (Ecu) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|48||Eddie Dunbar (Irl) Ineos Grenadiers|
|49||Jhojan Orlando Garcia Susa (Col) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|50||Mikel Bizkarra Etxegibel (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:05:57|
|51||Sergio Samitier Samitier (Spa) Movistar Team|
|52||Thomas Armstrong (GBr) Electro Hiper Europa||0:06:34|
|53||Antonio Angulo Sampedro (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|54||Sebastian Berwick (Aus) Israel Start-up Nation||0:06:53|
|55||Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa) Bahrain Victorious||0:07:01|
|56||Colin Joyce (USA) Rally Cycling||0:08:04|
|57||Mauricio Moreira (Uru) Efapel||0:08:06|
|58||Fabien Grellier (Fra) Total Direct Energie||0:08:28|
|59||Diego Pablo Sevilla Lopez (Spa) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|60||Rémy Rochas (Fra) Cofidis|
|61||Cristian Camilo Muñoz Lancheros (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|62||Oscar Cabedo Carda (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|63||Andrey Amador (CRc) Ineos Grenadiers|
|64||Dayer Quintana (Col) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|65||Andres Camilo Ardila Ordoñez (Col) UAE Team Emirates|
|66||Niklas Eg (Den) Trek-Segafredo||0:08:53|
|67||Damien Howson (Aus) Team BikeExchange||0:09:13|
|68||Victor Lafay (Fra) Cofidis|
|69||Oscar Rodriguez Garaicoechea (Spa) Astana-Premier Tech||0:09:31|
|70||Thibault Guernalec (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic||0:09:37|
|71||Diego Lopez Fuentes (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|72||Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates||0:09:41|
|73||Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa) Burgos-Bh|
|74||Julen Irizar Laskurain (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:10:49|
|75||Ibon Ruiz Sedano (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:10:51|
|76||Raul Garcia Pierna (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma|
|77||Barnabás Peák (Hun) Team BikeExchange||0:13:44|
|78||Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|79||Sergio Araiz Michel (Spa) Equipo Kern Pharma||0:15:05|
|80||Alan Riou (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic|
|81||Carlos Canal Blanco (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|82||Julen Amezqueta Moreno (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|83||Oscar Pelegri Ferrandis (Spa) Electro Hiper Europa|
|84||Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn) Bahrain Victorious|
|85||Vincenzo Albanese (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team|
|86||Alexander Cataford (Can) Israel Start-up Nation|
|87||Marcos Jurado Rodriguez (Spa) Electro Hiper Europa|
|88||Ibai Azurmendi Sagastibeltza (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi|
|89||Jon Irisarri Ricon (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
|90||Luca Wackermann (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||0:20:47|
|91||Robin Plamondon (Can) Israel Cycling Academy|
|92||Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Eolo-Kometa Cycling Team||0:20:51|
|93||Angel Madrazo Ruiz (Spa) Burgos-BH|
|94||Juan Diego Alba Bolivar (Col) Movistar Team|
|95||Josu Etxeberria Azpilikueta (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA|
As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.
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