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MADRID (AFP) — Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana aren’t leading the Vuelta a España — that honor goes to Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) — but the duo is poised to challenge for the red jersey as the race heats up in week two.
Valverde sits second in the overall standings and leads both the points and combined classifications for the race, which concludes on September 16 in Madrid.
“It would be hard to be in a better position all around for me and the team,” Valverde said in a press conference with his teammate Quintana on Monday.
“Things are going very well, with the two stage wins, us being in second and third overall, and with very small time gaps too — one second for me, and Nairo [Quintana] at 14 seconds.”
Valverde lost 24 seconds on Quintana during Sunday’s stage 9 between Talavera de la Reina and La Covatilla.
But the Spanish veteran, 38, is pleased with his first week of racing, which also included two stage wins.
At only one second behind Yates, who took over the red jersey from Frenchman Rudy Molard (Cofidis) on Sunday, he is firmly in contention for overall victory.
And, with Yates’s Mitchelton-Scott team expected to shoulder the weight of the race — controlling potentially dangerous attacks from rivals — Valverde’s Movistar team can contribute less to the chasing.
Having former Vuelta and Giro d’Italia champion Quintana in third place overall also gives Movistar tactical options when it comes to key stages in the mountains.
“We’ll see how the rivals are doing. Yates is the most active and strongest of them,” said Quintana.
Valverde too is familiar with the Vuelta’s red leader’s jersey. He won the overall in the 2009 edition of the race, his only grand tour victory to date.
The Vuelta continues on Tuesday with stage 10 held over 177 kilometers between Salamanca and Fermoselle.