Bib number 111 has become a curse for Alejandro Valverde in the Volta a Catalunya. For the second year on a row, the Movistar Team leader was constrained to abandon with that bib in the Spanish event.
While last year’s race saw him leaving the race after concluding an eventful stage two to Girona, with wounds and dropped, Valverde could not get back on his back today during the fourth day of racing, the Queen stage of the 2013 parcours over 217km between Llanars and Port Ainé. The race leader fell along with team-mate Eros Capecchi with 100km remaining on the stage into the descent of a non-categorized climb.
The huge blow suffered by both advised for their abandon, several cuts and bruises cured on site by one of the race ambulances, which picked Valverde up to the Movistar Team’s hotel in Rialp -on the race’s path, before the first slopes of the final climb-, where he underwent checks from team doctor Jesús Hoyos: “They both don’t have any serious injuries, but the blow has hard and Alejandro was feeling a bit dizzy. He has several bruises, especially on his left side, in the hip and the knee. And a hard hit in his elbow.”
In turn, Capecchi was taken to a medical center in La Seu d’Urgell, where any fractures were ruled out.
Forced to take over the leadership of the Movistar Team after Valverde’s abandon, Nairo Quintana showed again his great fitness level. The day, marked by a long, 25-rider breakaway including José Herrada, was bound to be decided into the 20k final ascent. There, Irish rider Daniel Martin (GRS), the best GC rider into the escape, 9th just 30 seconds off Valverde- split the group into pieces, and only a great Herrada could keep his wheel before dropping with 7k from the end, Martin on a mission for the day’s victory and the leader’s jersey.
Behind, when Herrada was about to be caught by the favourites’ group, less than 3k from the summit, Quintana jumped strong and reached a serious advantage that could only be bridged by Rodríguez (KAT), the local hero joining the Colombian into a pursuit they could not finish off -Nairo took a minute off Martin in the last 3km after his move-, but still allowing them gaining almost thirty seconds over the other big favourites. Martin is now in the lead with 10 seconds over Rodríguez and 32 above Quintana, the Movistar Team having a small margin over his nearest rivals to claim a first WorldTour overall podium that was neglected to him at Paris-Nice this season due to a crash. Mountains will vanish from the Volta’s scenery tomorrow on stage five, with 157km from Rialp to Lleida favouring the sprinters.
REACTION / Alejandro Valverde: “Now that my body has warmed down, the thing that hurts me the most is my hip. All my left side has damages, but since I crashed, apart from feeling a bit dizzy, that part was the one that I suffered the most from. We knew that it was a tricky descent, but we were at the front, pushing. Capecchi crashed and I couldn’t avoid hitting him. It was a pretty hard impact, even more for him, because I almost fell over him. It seems like I’m not a lucky man when it comes to my Volta appearances. It’s true that I was lucky enough to win it in 2009, but last year I also had to retire, and I really thought about it afterwards. I’m furious because I was feeling strong and had chances to win, but the important thing is that we have no injuries, plus our main goals are still really far away. Everything was going on track, but this is cycling. I’m sad about myself, but above all, about my team-mates, because they were sensational during all these days, and even though things had got a bit more complicated in the first kilometers, they were doing an excellent piece of work. At least, Nairo showed that he’s capable leading the team, and made it to the front again. It’s truly sad because we were making a strong duo, both feeling well, and today’s was the key stage.”