Valverde bangs fist on table with Vuelta stage win

Alejandro Valverde's emphatic stage 4 win shows that he's on great form, but will he ride for his teammate, Nairo Quintana?

Photo: TDW

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VEJER DE LA FRONTERA, Spain (VN) — The sound might have crossed the Gibraltar Strait and reached Tangier on Tuesday. When Alejandro Valverde won on the uphill kick to the small, whitewashed village in southern Spain, with its views of Africa, he essentially slammed his fist on the table to announce his presence.

Tinkoff-Saxo worked all day for Peter Sagan, winner of stage 3, but Valverde profited to give Movistar an early-race boost in stage 4 Tuesday. It was his first win since a successful spring that included victories in La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He went on to win the Spanish national title and take third-place overall at the Tour de France this summer.

Chris Froome (Sky) won the Tour. And of course, in second-place overall was one of cycling’s brightest new stars, Nairo Quintana — Valverde’s teammate.

Valverde, 10 years older than the Colombian at 35, reminded followers that he finished on the podium in grand tours seven times, including a win in the 2009 Vuelta a España. If Quintana cannot do it, he wants to win the overall himself this year — and win stages, like today’s, along the way.

“The fist was not banged on the table for the Vuelta, but just for this stage,” Valverde said.

“The Vuelta is so important. I’m never going to stop fighting for the overall win.”

The Murcian led the team from its days as Illes Balears to Caisse d’Epargne, and today with its current sponsor, telecommunications company Movistar. There is shift, however.

More and more, there are screams and cries for Quintana outside the team bus. Tuesday was no different, with fans draped in the Colombian flag, running behind him as he rode to the sign-in podium.

Quintana, though second in the Tour only to Froome and winner of the 2013 Giro, remains diplomatic. He said Sunday, “We will see. Alejandro and I are both in good shape.”

Valverde says, and it is the common belief among those following the race, that one will work for the other depending on who is strongest as the race reaches the high mountains of the north. Quintana, barring an incident like the one that ruled him out of last year’s race, should ride into the leadership role to take on favorites, including Froome. If so, at least Valverde had a chance to shine today.

“I’m happy, this means that I’ll be more relaxed for the rest of the Vuelta. All the victories are important, but a victory in the Vuelta is always big,” Valverde said.

“You have to keep your cool because there is still a lot Vuelta ahead. We can’t spend all of our energy because we want to keep our team fresh for the rest of the Vuelta.

“I’m waiting for the Alpujarra stage [Friday], that stage that will show us who can win the Vuelta. I know the stage, I previewed it until the last village before the finish.”

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