Valverde wins stage two in Catalunya and takes race lead
Spaniard wins stage with astounding sprint into Valls and takes the race lead
At a finish where he already took a magnificent solo win three years ago - the long, uphill straight leading to the sports arena of Valls (Tarragona) named by the late Xavi Tondo - Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team) raised his arms victorious again on Tuesday. The Spaniard has already taken a win in the 2018 Volta a Catalunya, plus a GC lead notched up after only two days in regular Blue kit following his overall victory in the event last season.
The work by the Telefónica-backed squad over the whole 175km stage two was again flawless. Erviti, Anacona and Pedrero covered their team leaders against the wind - which caused a delay nearing one hour behind the average timetable scheduled by the organisers - and picked up the pace when things seemed more dangerous for them, even helping out Valverde and Nairo Quintana to take 2" and 1" bonus at the day's final intermediate sprint. At the decisive climb of Lilla (Cat-2), just 10km from the finish, the rhythm by the Movistar Team and Mitchelton-Scott dropped back race leader Álvaro Hodeg (QST) and opened room to a reduced bunch's sprint, where Rojas supported Valverde perfectly.
Alejandro, who's got already six wins to his 2018 account -two stage victories + GC in Valencia; one stage + GC in Abu Dhabi-, helps the Movistar Team improve their tally this season to nine and his own counter to 114 victories as a pro competitor. The Volta, in turn, will kick off its trio of mountain stages on Wednesday over a significantly shortened route (153km) from Sant Cugat to Camprodon - and not to the mountain-top finish of Vallter 2000, as initially proposed, instead going through a snow (and avalanche)-free route over Bracons (Cat-1) and Collabós (Cat-2).
Alejandro Valverde said "We spent the whole day at the front of the bunch because of the strong winds, which could have caused some splits as we saw in previous years. After the break was caught, a window opened for us to go chase the bonus seconds, so we went for them. However, it wasn't on the team's plans to aim for the stage win, not at all. It was just that Scott got through the final climb at a really strong pace, and with the bunch strung out and many sprinters dropping, it was easier for us to seek for a good position into the main field - that was where we chose to go for the win.
"The finish was slightly uphill - I knew it well, and I kept in mind that it was good for me - and the work by José Joaquín from the summit of the climb was phenomenal, he kept me at the front at all times. I've won here in Valls with a solo attack, into a sprint... It's always beautiful to take a victory in this town and make a tribute to our friend Xavi Tondo, one we always remember wherever we go. It's also a victory for my son Iván, who broke his collarbone last weekend while playing football. I was so sad not to be able to support him at home - hope this victory brings some joy and strength to him.
"Tomorrow's stage will be really hard, especially for my team-mates. It's tough to take the GC lead so early in the race, because you exige a lot from the rest of the team. Hopefully, on roads quite narrower than today's, as long as we keep the front it should be easier. I already had pressure on my shoulders before this victory, so it doesn't change really much - it just gives you more confidence to see things going so well. It's time to ride calm and safely, and do our best!"
VIDEO: 2018 Volta a Catalunya Stage 2
2018 Volta a Catalunya Stage 2 Top 10
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 4:41:50
2 Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
3 Jay McCarthy (Aus) Bora-Hansgrohe
4 Egan Bernal (Col) Team Sky
5 Matej Mohoric (Slo) Bahrain-Merida
6 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
7 José Joaquin Rojas (Spa) Movistar Team
8 Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBr) Team Sky
9 Toms Skujins (Lat) Trek-Segafredo
10 Alex Howes (USA) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale