Alejandro Valverde holds off Ivan Sosa at La Route d'Occitanie to take first victory since return from injury

The world champion held off Ivan Sosa to take the overall classification by just eight seconds

Alejandro Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne 2019 (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) made a triumphant return from injury after he took the overall win at La Route d'Occitanie.

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) doubled up his tally of stage victories in the four-day race, pipping Sacha Modolo (EF Education First) and Julien Simon (Cofidis) in the sprint finish.

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Valverde beat Iván Sosa (Ineos) by just eight seconds in the overall classification, with Rigoberto Urán in third, 17 seconds back. Veteran Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Ag2r La Mondiale) was fourth, 42 seconds behind, as he readies himself to support Romain Bardet at the Tour de France, while Eddie Dunbar rode to a top five finish, 45 seconds back.

This was Valverde's first race back since injury, the world champion forced to pull out of the Giro d'Italia after a training ride crash on his birthday.

The Spaniard took the win and race lead on stage one, beating Eddie Dunbar (Ineos) on the line in an uphill finish, with the two Colombians Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First) and Iván Sosa (Ineos) also finishing within a couple of seconds.

After three second category climbs on the first day of racing, stage two provided an opportunity for the sprinters, with Arnaud Démare taking the stage win ahead of Chris Lawless (Ineos), fresh from his Tour de Yorkshire victory.

Stage three was another day for the climbers, the highlight of the day's race being the first category climb of the Port de Balès. Ivan Sosa pipped Valverde to the line, with Rigoberto Urán coming close once again, finishing third and only three seconds down. Eddie Dunbar secured seventh on the stage, finishing 35 seconds back.

Going into the final stage four, Valverde had an eight second advantage over Sosa, with Urán in third and 17 seconds behind. However, the circuit route was unlikely to offer up any chance to dislodge the world champion from the race lead. Indeed, a fast-paced finish proceeded, with Arnaud Démare taking the win from a bunch sprint, as Valverde finished safely to secure the overall victory.

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