Valverde Takes Stage 6 of Vuelta a Espana, Takes Red Jersey
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is the winner of Stage 6, the 2014 Vuelta a Espana’s first stage with a mountaintop finish.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is the winner of Stage 6, the 2014 Vuelta a Espana’s first stage with a mountaintop finish. The Spanish veteran powered away from the lead group in the last km to win the 167.1-km ride from Benalmadena to La Zubia in 4:35:27. Chris Froome (Sky) finished second, and Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) took third. Valverde has put on the red jersey that he wore after Stage 2.
The riders had to contend with more hot weather today. The heat did not deter Pim Ligthart (Lotto-Belisol) and Luis Mas Bonet (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), however. The pair escaped in the first km, and they led by four minutes at 22 km and almost 15 minutes at 50 km. Garmin-Sharp went to the front and began grinding away at the escapees’ advantage. The pair led by 12 minutes at the base of the day’s first climb, the Category 2 Alto de Zafarraya, and by 11 minutes at the summit.
Katusha and Movistar joined Garmin-Sharp at the front, and the gap between bunch and break continued to narrow. With 60 km remaining, the peloton trailed Ligthart and Bonet by 9:20. Fifteen km later, the bunch was 7:42 behind the fugitives, and 6:24 separated the bunch from the break with 30 km to go.
After the first intermediate sprint at 145 km, Orica-GreenEdge went to the front. At this point, the peloton was 4:30 behind the break. The gap had narrowed to less than two minutes with 10 km remaining. The heads of state moved to the front. The break was doomed.
At the base of the Category 1 ascent to the finish, Ligthart and Bonet had 0:20 on the peloton. Ligthart dropped Bonet and went for a solo win. Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) attempted to bridge up to the Belgian, but his effort was to no avail, and Katusha led the field up the ascent.
With three km left, Cadel Evans (BMC) was dropped, and one km later, Valverde went to the front to set the pace for teammate Nairo Quintana. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp-POC) slid out of the back. Not long after, Wilco Kelderman (Belkin) dropped out of the lead group, which was down to nine riders with one km left.
With 700 m remaining, Rodriguez attacked. Valverde led Quintana, Chris Froome (Sky), and Contador to the Katusha man. Froome attacked, and Valverde countered. The Spaniard stayed clear for the win.
Valverde’s victory came while he was working for Quintana, but he has demonstrated excellent form in his own right. "This victory means a lot to me,” the Movistar man said. “Though it's harder to feel great with these temperatures, my legs were really good today, I felt well all over the course and I was able to win. It was a climb that really suited me and we couldn't miss such an opportunity had we got it - still, I think everyone saw clearly I was working for Nairo. There was a tailwind on the climb and it was hard for anyone in the main group to go away. They had to