What a return to victory for Alejandro Valverde at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana 2018. The Movistar man foreruns on the finish line of Albuixech the Astana pair of Luis Leon Sanchez and Jakob Fuglsang and wins his first race since fracturing the kneecap in last Tour de France prologue. The spaniard beats at the sprint the Astanas and anticipates the chasing group, led by Giovanni Visconti (Bahrain – Merida), with 19 seconds. Valverde is also the new overall leader with 4 seconds of advantage on Sanchez and 6 on Fuglsang.
The stage, 154 kms leading to Albuixech from Betera, offers five categorized climbs, the last of those at 30 kms to go. The early break of the day goes away in the first phase of the race, with Bryan Nauleau (Direct Energie), Garikoitz Bravo (Euskadi – Murias), Mathias Van Gompel (Sport Vlaanderen – Baloise), Jesus Alberto Rubio (Inteja Dominican Cycling) and Jon Ander Insausti (Team Euskadi) opening a seven minutes advantage on the peloton. Bravo, looking for the mountains’ jersey, sprints at the top of every climb in order to seek as many points as possible. Meanwhile, in the back, Lotto Nl – Jumbo and Sky keep the pace.
On the fourth climb of the day, the Puerto de Eslida, Ruben Plaza (Israel Cycling Academy), Andriy Grivko (Astana), Alessandro De Marchi (BMC), Preben Van Hecke (Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise), Domen Novak (Bahrain-Merida) and Antonio Molina (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA) attacked but their effort lasts only for a little because of Sky’s high tempo in the back, which the British team keeps in the way to the last climb. When the steepest part of 30-kms-to-go Garbi climb – the last of the day – comes, Jakob Fuglsang attacks. In a matter of two kilometres, Valverde accelerates joining the Danish and, along the descent, Luis Leon Sanchez succeeds in escaping the peloton and turns the duo into a trio. The new breakaway, despite the constant turns in front of the peloton encouraged by Sky and BMC men, extends the gap to 30 seconds. Valverde co-operates the Astanas’efforts and backs off in the last kilometres of the race, where Fuglsang leads the breakaway to ensure the best position for Sanchez in the sprint. Despite in superior numbers, Sanchez and Fuglsang are overtaken by the Murcia native, who returns to victory since triumphing in last April’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 3:53:55
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team “
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team “
4 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Bahrain-Merida 0:00:19
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team “
6 Merhawi Kudus (Eri) Dimension Data “
7 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team “
8 Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale “
9 Ben Hermans (Bel) Israel Cycling Academy “
1 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 8:27:58
2 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Astana Pro Team 0:00:04
3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:06
4 Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky 0:00:29
5 Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky “
6 Pello Bilbao (Spa) Astana Pro Team “
7 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team “
8 David De La Cruz (Spa) Team Sky “
9 Primoz Roglic (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo “
10 Brent Bookwalter (USA) BMC Racing Team “