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Valverde decides not to wait for the uphill sprint on the Basilica del Puy and decides to attack from a far. Having bridged across to an earlier break, he drops all his rivals to take a beautiful solo win ahead of Slagter and Chernetskii

Photo: Sirotti










05.04.2014 @ 19:26 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has continued what is probably his best ever start to a cycling season by taking another win in the Movistar home race, GP Miguel Indurain. Despite an uphill finish perfectly suited to him, the fast Spaniard decided to make a demonstration of power by attacking from afar to make it a cross to an earlier break before riding away from all his rivals to take a solo win ahead of Tom -Jelte Slagter (Garmin) and Sergei Chernetskii (Katusha).


Alejandro Valverde has always been a prolific winner but this year the Movistar leader seems to have taken another step up. Having already won the hardest race at the Challenge Mallorca, totally dominated the Vuelta a Andalucia, beaten everybody at the Vuelta a Murcia, taken an impressive stage win at the Roma Maxima and played important roles in the Strade Bianche and the cobbled classics, the Spaniard took an important victory for his Movistar team in today's GP Miguel Indurain.


The hilly race with at the top of the 1km climb to the Basilica del Puy in Estella and its average gradient of 7% makes it perfectly suited to Valverde's characteristics. Hence, the logical choice for Valverde would have been to use his fabulous team - clearly the strongest in the Spanish race - to keep things together for an uphill sprint for Valverde.


However, the team leader had no intention of making the easy choice and chose to make a demonstration of force before lining up at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco on Monday. He attacked with 19km to go when the riders went up the finishing climb for the penultimate time and quickly made it across to a strong lead group that contained several teammaes.


Valverde briefly used his teammate John Gadret to set a brutal pace before taking off on his own on the Alto de Eraul. He crested the summit with a 35-second gap over his chasers and from there he never looked back.


Valverde kepe extending his gap all the way to the finish and when he crossed the line at the top of the Basilica del Puy climb, he had put more than a minute into his chasers. An in-form Tom-Jelte Slagter had done his best to lead the pursuit but the Dutchman had to settle for second when he held off Sergey Chernetskii in the final dash to the line of the splintering chase group.


The hard terrain and the aggressive racing had ripped the peloton to pieces and the riders rolled across the line in small groups or one by one with big time losses to the superior Valverde.


With the win Valverde has marked himself out as one of the obvious favourites for the WorldTour race, Vuelta al Pais Vasco which starts on Monday. For many of today's riders, however, there is another race coming up tomorrow, with the Vuelta a la Rioja offering an opportunity for the fast finishers.


A hilly classic

Despite having been under threat earlier this year, the GP Miguel Indurain took place on its usual date two days before the Vuelta al Pais Vasco to kick off a solid block of racing on Spanish soil. The 187 km race started in Estella and finished at the top of the Basilica del Puy climb in the same city. Along the way the riders would go up the final ascent no less than 5 times while the riders would go up an additional 5 climbs in the second part of the race.


The race took off in beautiful weather conditions, with 16-degree temperatures and virtually no wind.  Javier Chacon (Keith Mobel) was the only non-starter in a race that was off to a brutal start.


Movistar on the attack

Movistar showed their intentions when they opened the attacking right from the gun. Gorka Izagirre took off early in the race but after 3km of racing, he was back in the fold.


The aggressive racing continued, with Pavel Brutt (Katusha) and Jesus Herrada (Movistar) being the next riders to get a noticeable gap. More riders bridged across and at the 5km mark, an 18-rider group had taken off.


A big group takes off

Most of the teams had made it into the move and so the peloton slowed down. After 7km of racing, the group was already a minute ahead and 5km further up the road, they were 3 minutes ahead.


The group was made up of Pavel Brutt (Katusha), Jesús Herrada and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Javier Acevedo and Nathan Haas(Garmin), Ángel Madrazo, Heiner Parra and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural), Haritz Orbe, Jon Larrinaga and Benat Txoperena (Euskadi), David Belda, Pablo Torres and Ibai Salas (Burgos), Jordi Simon (Ecuador), Raúl Alarcón (Louletano), Evgeny Shalunov and Arkimedes Arguelyes (Lokosphinx) and so contained 2 Movistar riders. Nonetheless, it was the Spanish team that took control in the peloton, with Enrique Sanz keeping the gap stable between the 3- and 4-minute marks for most of the day.


A battle for points

Torres beat Alarcon and Parra in the first special sprint and the former two were again first in the second one with Molina crossing the line in third. Salas beat Simon and Arguelyes in the sprint at the 59km mark.


After 75km to go, the climbing started when the escapees went up the category 2 Alto de Arradia. They started the ascent with a 3-minute gap and briefly split their group on the ascent.


Alarcon takes off

Haas was first at the top followed by Belda, Shalunov, Izagirre and Brutt but things came back together on the descent Haas beat Simon and Shalunov in the special sprint at the 91km mark but he cohesion had now been broken and so Alarcon decided to attack, trying to get and advantage ahead of the climbs.


He won the sprint at the 96km mark ahead of Haas and Salad but after the next passage of the finish line, he was back in the fold. The aggressive riding, however, had reduced the gap to 4 minutes.


The break splits up

The riders now started the Alto Erraul where the front group again split. At the top, only Herrada, Izagirre, Acevedo, Haas, Brutt, Belda, Arguelyes and Shalunov remained, with Haas being first at the summit ahead of Belda, Izagirre, Acevedo and Herrada.


The gap was now up to 4.24. More riders rejoined the front on the descent as first Orbe, Madrazo and Simon and later also Larrinaga, Alarcon, Salas and Parra got back to make it a 15-rider lead group.


The gap comes down

The peloton had again upped the pace and when Haas led Orbe and Salas across the line for the third time, the gap was down to 3.10. There was still no cooperation in the front group and so Larrinaga, Shalunov, and Belda attacked.


With a 2-minute gap, the trio started the day's main climb, the category 1 Alto Guirguillano, and Belda quickly left his companions behind. Izagirre, Herrada, Brutt, Haas and Simon joined him but Movistar were not riding hard in the peloton and the advantage was down to 1.30 with 57km to go. Haas crested the summit in first position ahead of Belda, Herrada, Simon, Brutt, Izagirre, and Orbe.


A front quintet remains

The 6 leaders managed to up the pace and reopened the gap to 2.20. At this point, Movistar decided to change tactics as they stopped chasing in the main group and instead started to attack from the breakaway.


Simon fell off the pace while Herrada and Haas took off on their own. The duo stayed clear for a little while but at the bottom of the Alto de Lezaun 41km from the finish, the front quintet was back together.


Caja Rural chase hard

Caja Rural was now riding hard in the peloton and had brought the gap down to just 1.05. Up ahead, the break split up when Izagirre and Belda fell off the pace, leaving just Herrada, Brutt and Haas 30 seconds ahead of the peloton.


Brutt fell off the pace but with 32km to go, it seemed that the day's early escape was over. Just as it seemed to get back together, however, new attacks were flying and suddenly 6 riders had joined the leaders and reopened the gap.


A new group is formed

Chernetskii, John Gadret, Ion Izagirre (both Movistar), Andre Cardoso (Garmin), David Arrroyo (Caja Rural) and Jesus Del Pino (Burgos) were the riders to join the action and they quickly had a one-minute advantage. After being on the attack all day, Haas was now giving it his all for teammate Cardoso while in the peloton, Movistar had taken charge.


The gap started to come down and with 21km to go, it was down to just 35 seconds. The peloton was whittled down to just 25 riders as they started to climb the Basilica del Puy climb for the penultimate time.


Valverde takes off

Haas still did a tremendous job for Cardoso when they got the unpleasant message that Valverde had attacked from the peloton. With 17km to go, the Movistar leader had joined the front group and Gadret went straight to the front to force the pace.


Slagter and Yury Trofimov (Katusha) also made the junction while it was finally over for Haas as the Australian and Del Pino fell off the pace. The 9 riders hit the Alto de Eraul woth 15km to go where Valverde hit the front to up the pace.


Valverde off on his own

No one managed to keep up with the strong Spaniard who crested the summit 20 seconds ahead of Slagter, Trofimov, Cardoso and Chernetskii. 10km from the finish he was already 35 seconds ahead, and 2km further up the road, it was already 50 seconds.


Valverde kept the pace high all the way to the finish to cross the line with a 1.02 gap over Slagter and Chernetskii while Cardoso and Tromifov followed 4 seconds further adrift. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin) was the beat of the rest, reaching the finish in 6th with a time loss of 1.40.



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