Mallorca Challenge: Alejandro Valverde outkicks McNulty on Trofeo Pollença-Port d’Andratx hilltop

Valverde wins summit sprint for first victory in 11 starts at Mallorcan race.

Photo: Getty Images

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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) sure isn’t sprinting like he’s 41.

Valverde made a zinging acceleration on the steep Andratx hilltop to win the Trofeo Pollença-Port d’Andratx on Saturday. The Spanish veteran blasted away from Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates) for Movistar’s first victory of the season.

Aleksandr Vlasov finished third in what was his first race for Bora-Hansgrohe.

Valverde has raced the Trofeo Pollença 11 times since he made his race debut in 2006, but Saturday’s victory was his first in the Mallorca Challenge mainstay.

The victory puts a cap on Valverde’s time at the Mallorcan series as he rolls into his retirement season in top gear after also placing sixth and second earlier the week.

The Spaniard paid tribute to Egan Bernal after the Colombian’s horror crash earlier this week as well as to former Barçelona soccer team manager Juan Carlos Unzué, who has been diagnosed with ALS. Juan is brother of Movistar Team chief Eusebio Unzué.

“I want to dedicate this victory, very especially, to two people. The first, to Egan Bernal. All my encouragement in his recovery, and hopefully we can see him restored very soon,” Valverde said. “And in second place, to Juan Carlos Unzué.”

“In recent months he [Unzué] has been giving an example of strength and optimism to everyone, and in the team we are all committed to what he is doing. From here, a huge hug, hoping that we will see each other again very soon.”

The young American talent McNulty also continued his hot start to the year, with his second-place making it three top-4 finishes in three races after he won the Trofeo Calvia on Wednesday.

“I came into the final climb in a good position. I tried to follow Valverde at one K to go and then I put in an attack and then it was just me, Valverde and Vlasov,” McNulty said. “He [Valverde] kicked and I just didn’t have the sprint to match, but overall it’s another good day for me.”

The fourth day of the five-race Mallorca Challenge series saw the bunch go back into the mountains of the north of the island before a stinging 2km, 10 percent finish in Andratx.

Eleven riders got into the day’s first break, but they didn’t last long before being reeled in by the fast-charging bunch in the opening hours of the race.

The peloton split and reformed throughout the following hours of action as riders tried to get away.

Marc Soler was active with a series of moves from the bunch in his UAE Emirates debut, and Matt Holmes (Lotto-Soudal) made it into a three-man break that stayed clear for a handful of kilometers. Holmes and Co.’s attack was reeled in at 50km to go as the race condensed to a reduced lead peloton of around 40 riders.

Enric Mas (Movistar) continued his attacking start to 2022 with a skirmish inside the hilly final 30km only to be reeled in by a Bora-Hansgrohe bossed bunch.

Lotto-Soudal took charge for the final before Holmes rolled the dice again. The Brit darted out of the bunch with 10km to go and carried a lead of around 15 seconds into the approach of the final climb only to be caught as the road started to point uphill.

From there, it was all the Valverde show as the Spanish star launched one of the trademark summit sprints that have earned him so many victories in his two-decade career.

The Mallorca Challenge finishes up with the Trofeo Playa de Palma on Sunday.

Top-6, Trofeo Pollença-Port d’Andratx

  1. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar): 4:14:50
  2. Brandon McNulty (UAE Emirates): S.T
  3. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe): +03
  4. Michael Matthews (BikeExchange Jayco): +06
  5. Felix Gall (Ag2r-Citroën): +10
  6. Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech): S.T

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