Alejandro Valverde’s stellar season continued on Saturday with his first overall win at the 2017 Tour of the Basque Country. The Movistar rider’s second place in the final stage six time trial was enough to secure victory ahead of compatriot Alberto Contador (Trek-Segfredo) and Ion Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida).
Contador had begun the day just three seconds behind Valverde and, while he had an advantage for much of the race, 36-year-old Valverde gradually brought the deficit down, eventually beating his rival by 14 seconds.
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Slovenian rising star Primož Roglič’s (LottoNL-Jumbo) winning time of 35-58 was almost lost in the excitement of what was a fascinating and gripping time trial, made more so by the closeness of the general classification.
The top five riders overall started the day on the same time, and the leading 11 riders were only separated by 22 seconds, so the time trial was set to be decisive.
Crashes had taken their toll throughout the week, and just 138 of the 160 riders who began the race in Pamplona last Monday took to the start ramp for the day’s 27km test.
Far from straightforward, the circular course through the hills south of Eibar contained 565 metres of vertical gain, most of that in the opening seven kilometres.
The early pace was set by local rider Pello Bilbao looking for his Astana team’s first WorldTour win of the year, though his place on the hot seat was taken first by Anthony Roux then by his FDJ team-mate and compatriot Jérémy Roy, in a time of 37-35.
Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka and Australian Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) both had periods on the leader’s seat, the latter despite slipping off the pedal when he started. However, it was rising star Roglič whose time won the day.
In only his second year at WorldTour level, 27-year-old Roglič had won Thursday’s fourth stage and adds that to Saturday’s win and general classification success at the Volta ao Algarve in February.
Valverde started the day’s test wearing the leader’s yellow jersey having won Friday’s Queen stage and is his ninth victory of the 2017 season. The Spanish veteran is not noted for his time trialling but benefited from starting last and was able to keep tabs on those ahead of him, including Contador, who has won the race on four previous occasions.
The general classification victory proves Valverde’s form ahead of the Ardennes Classics, where he historically performs well.
Tour of the Basque Country, stage six: Eibar to Eibar, 27km
1. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 35-58
2. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 9 secs
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain Merida, at 15 secs
4. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segfredo, at 23 secs
5. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 34 secs
6. Michael Mattews (Aus) Team Sunweb, at 41 secs
7. Vasil Kiryienka (Blr) Team Sky, at 52 secs
8. Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at same time
9. Victor de la Parte (Esp) Movistar, at 1-04
10. George Bennett (NZ) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-23
Final general classification
1. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, in 20-41-25
2. Alberto Contador (Esp) Trek-Segfredo, at 17 secs
3. Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 00-21
4. David de la Cruz (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 00-44
5. Primož Roglič (Slo) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 59 secs
6. Louis Meintjes (RSA) UAE-Team Emirates, at 1-19
7. Patrik Konrad (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 1-40
8. Sergio Luis Henao (Col) Team Sky, at 1-51
9. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Cannondale-Drapac, at 1-56
10. Simon Špilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 2-01