Two unforgettable victories, after huge team-work, see Blues victorious at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and stage three of O Gran Camiño to reach an incredible, unique milestone in the world of cycling
A day the Movistar Team won’t easily forget in a long time. In barely fifteen minutes, the Telefónica-backed squad achieved two enormously prestigious wins, which take their victory account up to 1000 since the Eusebio Unzué-led professional structures started their journey in 1980. Annemiek van Vleuten, at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and Alejandro Valverde, on stage three of O Gran Camiño, crowned on Saturday splendid teamwork from the Blues in both fronts.
In Belgium, Martín, Biannic, Guarischi, González and Norsgaard solved, together with ‘Miek’, a difficult situation in the form of a four-rider break including Van Dijk (TFS) and Reusser (SDW) going away before the decisive climbs. The Dutchwoman, who launched two irresistible accelerations at the Kapelmuur and Bosberg, left her opposition behind with only Demi Vollering (SDW) for company, until she bested her with an agonic, half-kilometer sprint. It’s Van Vleuten’s 15th success in Blue colours and the 50th of the women’s program led by Sebastián Unzué and Jorge Sanz, once again excellent in the first big classic of the calendar.
Over in Ourense, the efforts from Arcas, Oliveira, Izagirre, Rojas, Serrano and an exceptional Iván Sosa helped Alejandro Valverde show his attacking style in the grueling Ribeira Sacra area. Together with the Colombian and race leader Michael Woods (IPT), they opened a decisive gap towards the finishing sprint, where ‘Bala’ claimed his 132nd professional success and the Telefónica-backed squad’s men’s program’s 950th in 43 years. A milestone, one thousand, which could be further improved if Alejandro makes up the gap, 10″ against the Canadian, at the demanding, decisive ITT in Sarria (Lugo) on Sunday.
Annemiek van Vleuten: “It’s been quite an emotional finish, one of those which really make you feel so happy! It was a huge team effort, as they took responsibility and reached so far when I wasn’t myself able to match the split I had to make, and they had to close the gap. Emma, Sara, Baby, Aude, Alicia… Every single one of them was simply fantastic.
“The Bosberg was my last chance to drop the others, but I was surprised that only one of them could stay with me. I talked to Vollering in the final, but she didn’t want to take any turns as she had two teammates behind. It was hard for me, but I thought ‘just keep riding’. My whole career I have tried not to let myself get frustrated by things I can’t control but to accept the situation and make the best of it.
“I know that she is faster than me on paper, but also that I get faster after a hard race. I thought ‘maybe I can surprise her’. I really went kamikaze into that corner, that was my chance to get in front before the roundabout, it was a 600-metre sprint. She came out of my wheel, but then I still had a bit left to give. I really want to enjoy this victory, because it felt so special. Next up is Strade Bianche, another really beautiful moment, but first, let’s enjoy this one.”
Alejandro Valverde: “So happy with this nice success! We kept the race under control at all times. Third on Thursday, second yesterday, and the win today – and we’re close up there in the GC, so we must feel really proud! We really went for the stage today; you can get it or not, because the opposition was strong, but things turned out well. I didn’t know those final climbs and it was a steep series! Roads were difficult, downhills were technical… and we really needed to keep a good position. We had a really strong Sosa, an excellent team all-around in all phases of the race, and then it was down to that final. I knew I was faster than Woods and Sosa led me out perfectly to claim that win. We’ve done really well so far this week, and let’s hope we can crown it tomorrow. It will be a tough ITT, not flat at all. Let’s see how we did recover, and we’ll give everything that’s left to take yellow.”