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by Mark Zalewski
March 25, 2017
In today’s CyclingTips Daily News Digest: Van Avermaet sprints Gilbert to win Flanders warm-up in Harelbeke; Valverde wins Catalunya queen stage, takes lead; Skujinš wins Coppi e Bartali stage, takes over lead; Multiple crashes in E3 Harelbeke; Owain Doull says current Sky riders should not be rolled into doping controversy; Patrick Lefevere ‘Founder of Gent-Wevelgem turning in his grave’; Sean Kelly on how to reform cycling; Women’s E3 Harelbeke in 2018?; Two SEG Racing Academy riders sidelined with injuries; Veenendaal-Veenendaal Classic will run in 2017; Irish company turns to crowdfunding to broadcast domestic events; Video: Dr. Mitch Anderson’s 12hr World Record.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) showed everyone, including the race commisaires who penalised him and his team in the stage two TTT, that he is the one to beat. The Spaniard dominated the queen stage of the Volta a Catalunya, beating Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) by 13 seconds and taking the race leader’s jersey from BMC’s Tejay van Garderen. .
“We kept full focus in the dangerous part of the stage, exposed to the wind, and all over the stage I had different teammates surrounding me. At the final climb, Rubén Fernández and Marc Soler did a sensational job for me. From the very foot of the climb I was feeling like I had good legs, and I asked them to go on full steam for as long as they could.
“It’s a victory and a leader’s jersey really special, because of everything that happened during the last few days. Things like those, outside the racing itself, are not ones that we like. In the end, we managed to get people excited and happy about our racing, and that’s what counts.
With 9km to go Team Sky put five riders on the front leading Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome. Just behind rode Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale) and Contador. At 7km to go Latour attacked, which forced a reaction from Trek-Segafredo. At 4km to go Contador made his move, exploding the group and whittling it down to Froome, Valverde, Soler and a handful of others. Soon after Valverde took up the attack and shrunk the group to four, again with Soler heading to the front to work for his leader. Eventually Adam Yates (ORICA-Scott) connected. Behind van Garderen struggled with only one teammate left, Sámuel Sanchez, to help pace him up the climb.
The sharp hairpins in the final 2km affected Froome, who was momentarily distanced, causing Yates to also lose contact. Froome quickly rejoined at the flamme rouge, but Valverde attacked, leaving Froome and Contador to work together to limit their losses. Valverde now has a 21 second lead on Froome and 47 seconds on Contador. Van Garderen is now 1:18 off the lead.