He may not top the UCI WorldTour rankings – yet – but Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde has enjoyed a strike rate that few can match this season. After victories at the Vuelta a Murcia, the Vuelta Andalucia, the GP Miguel Indurain, and Roma Maxima, the Spaniard was on the attack again at La Flèche Wallonne to claim his first WorldTour win of 2014.
His victory on the Mur carried all the hallmarks of a vastly experienced rider. By positioning himself at the head of the bunch as the climb began, Valverde avoided being delayed by a crash – a fate suffered by key rivals, Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) and Ireland’s Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp). The Mur can resemble the M25 at rush hour, but by taking up a position front and left – on the hard shoulder, as it were – Valve was released.
When the decisive attack came, it was short and oh-so-sweet – for Valverde, if not his rivals. The Spaniard had his arms in the air long before cresting the Mur and crossing the line; a galling vision for Martin, no doubt, whose remarkable recovery ride from behind the crash suggested he had the legs to finish the job.
Valverde will lead Movistar at the Tour de France in July, and seems to be doing everything in his power to justify his team’s decision. Few squads would banish a Tour runner-up to the Giro d’Italia the following year (Team Sky being the exception), but few squads have the strength in depth of Movistar. Perhaps it is a vision of Nairo Quintana in the maglia rosa that spurs Valverde, but in his current form, and with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) also enjoying a renaissance, Chris Froome will not expect to have things all his own way in July.
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