Mas de la Costa (Spain) (AFP)
Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) won a victory at Mas de la Costa on Friday during the 7th stage of the Tour of Spain, marked by the return of Miguel Ángel López's general (Astana).
Some passes, 183 kilometers and, at the end, a wall: the Alto Mas de la Costa. It is there, for four kilometers to more than 12% of average, that the four favorites to the final victory chose to measure themselves.
And if the Colombian Movistar Nairo Quintana, who first and most often placed attacks, his teammate, 39-year-old world champion Valverde, won. The Spaniard becomes the third oldest rider to win one day on a grand tour, according to statistician Gracenote, behind American Chris Horner (41, on Vuelta 2013) and Belgian Pino Cerami (41, on the Tour de France 1963).
Up there, the Spaniard at first seemed less fit than the others, almost dropped in percentages of up to 25%. But in the last meters, he was stronger than the Slovenian Primo? Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Miguel Ángel López, new leader of the event.
"Superman" Lopez, as the Colombian is nicknamed, recovers the leader's red jersey, which he had already worn during the 6th stage on Thursday before lending it, for a day, to Belgian Dylan Teuns (Bahrain), distanced Friday.
- Red jersey and black series -
In general he is now ahead of Roglic (+6 seconds), Valverde (+16) and Quintana (+27). It is this quartet of climbers that should continue to fight for the red jersey until the final finish on 15 September in Madrid.
The third Grand Tours, which comes in the calendar after the Italian Giro and the Tour de France, has already lost several other riders who came to play the leading role under the Iberian sun.
Firstly Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), at the 4th stage, after his fall in the inaugural team time trial, in which Roglic was also involved. Then Thursday, Colombian Rigoberto Uran, who threw in the towel like his teammate at Education First Hugh Carthy, after a massive crash.
A black series that continued Friday for the American team with the abandonment of the American Tejay Van Garderen, the day after a heavy fall. Second abandonment in one month for Van Garderen, who had also left before the time the Tour de France.
For those who stay, the road to Madrid is still long. The fight of the last kilometers on Friday is only a foretaste of what the Spanish difficulties reserve for us. The riders still have, for example, the Alto de Los Machucos and its ramps reaching 28% (13th stage) to climb or the endless pass of the Cubilla, 20km long (16th stage).
Saturday for the 8th stage, they will have plenty of time to think about these festivities, along the 166.9 km hilly that connect Valls to Igualada in the Catalan country.
© 2019 AFP