Movistar rider takes his eighth stage victory in the history of the race

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took victory in the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol, winning the sprint ahead of an elite group of climbers that went clear over the final ascent of the day.

Valverde is a four-time winner of this race, and took his eighth Ruta del Sol stage win as he shadowed numerous attacks from Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) up the Alto de Monachil.

The Movistar rider reached the summit of the final climb with 19km to alongside a small group of climbers, before attacking on the technical descent to go solo.

He was joined by Contador, Wout Poels and Diego Rosa (Team Sky), Sebastien Reichenbach (FDJ), and Ion Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida), with the elite group of climbers battling it out on the flat finish in Granada.

And it was Valverde who proved the fastest, comfortably beating Poels and Reichenbach in the final sprint for the line.

The break went early on the first stage of the Ruta del Sol, with Georg Preidler (Team Sunweb) Tosh Van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal),  Florian Sénéchal (Cofidis), Berden de Vries (Roompot-Nederlandse Loterij), Daniel Turek (Israel Cycling Academy), Kirill Sveshnikov (Gazprom-RusVelo), and Ibai Salas (Burgos BH) going clear.

The group had quickly built a gap of more than five minutes within the first 30km, but with Alberto Contador’s Trek-Segafredo team taking up the chase at around the mid-point of the stage, the gap quickly began to fall.

The break’s advantage dropped below a minute for the first time with 55km to go, with Turek, Van de Sande and Sénéchal seperating themselves from their breakaway companions shortly after.

However with the final climb of the day, Alto de Monachil rapidly approaching, Trek-Segafredo continued to set a fearsome pace, catching the remains of the break with 36km remaining, six kilometres before the start of the climb.

The American team continued to set the pace at the start of the ascent, with Jesus Hernandez and Haimar Zubeldia riding hard to shed a number of riders off the back of the peloton.

>>> Watch: Alejandro Valverde catches some air in daring descent on way to Vuelta a Murcia win

As the climb started to ramp up, Trek-Segafredo were joined on the front of the main group by riders from Movistar and Team Sky, but it was Contador who launched the first attack.

Contador quickly opened a significant gap, with Alejandro Valverde seeing the need to follow the move to join his compatriot at the front of the race.

However the two Spaniards could not hold the same seering pace on the steep roads, being joined by Wout Poels and Diego Rosa, Ion Izaguirre, and Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac).

That elite front group became steadily less select as more riders joined up from behind, with one of those riders, Mikel Landa (Team Sky) taking the opportunity to go over the top of the group and open a slender gap with two kilometres to go to the summit of the climb.

But Contador has grit between his teeth, reeling in Landa before the top of the climb, before Valverde leapt clear on the technical first few kilometres of the descent.

The Movistar rider reached speeds of 100kmh on the descent, but was joined by Izaguirre, Contador and Rosa with 10km to go.

>>> Ruta del Sol 2017 TV guide

Three of those four worked hard to maintain their advantage, but Rosa chose to sat on as team-mate Poels chased with Reichenbach behind, making the junction with three kilometre remaining to the finish in Granada.

As the sextet went under the flamme rouge, Reichenbach launched a brief, futile attack form the back of the group, but it was Valverde who opened the sprint.

And the Spaniard never looked like losing, with none of the climbers in the group able to come close to making the catch.

Result

Ruta del Sol 2017, stage one: Rincón de la Victoria to Granada, 155.4km

1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 4-02-28
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky
3. Sebastien Reichenbach (Sui) FDJ)
4. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky
5. Ion Izaguirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo, all at same time
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ, at 5 secs
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb, all at same time

General classification after stage one

1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar
2. Wout Poels (Ned) Team Sky
3. Sebastien Reichenbach (Sui) FDJ)
4. Diego Rosa (Ita) Team Sky
5. Ion Izaguirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida
6. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segafredo
7. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
8. Mikel Landa (Esp) Team Sky
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Sunweb