Did we honestly expect anything else?
As night follows day, Valverde wins a stage in an early Spanish race.
It was a well-timed move from the Movistar man who caught onto the coat tails of a strong Fuglsang at roughly 34km to go. The duo held off the Sky-led “peloton” over the summit of the climb, at which point Luis Leon Sanchez attacked and made the duo into a trio.
They worked well together and managed to extend the lead up to 30 seconds as Sky were leant on behind to do all the chasing. Other teams eventually chipped in but it was all in vain.
The trio held on to a 19 second advantage, battling it out in a sprint finish with El Bala taking the spoils, LLS second and Fuglsang third.
The result means that Valverde now holds a 29 second lead over the majority of the main contenders (aside from LLS and Fuglsang, obviously) thanks to the time bonuses he received for winning.
Can Movistar put in a strong performance in the TTT tomorrow to keep him in contention?
A fast and dangerous blast along the coastline to the popular training camp location of Calpe.
I would be very surprised if every team has not had at least one look at this course before their morning recon tomorrow.
It does feature some rolling hills which can upset the rhythm of the TTT, but there are also many downhill sections where speed can be maintained. That being said though, it is a very technical route for a TTT and a well-drilled squad can make all the difference.
As you can see, there are plenty of turns on the route so there might be some surprises at the end of the day. Will the traditional TTT outfits be able to put the power down?
Another factor tomorrow are the weather conditions; they are set forecast to be horrendous!
With a lot of rain predicted overnight and early morning, it is set to dry up in the afternoon. However, the roads will still be slick and not ideal for this type of effort. The rain combined with the twisting nature of the route make this quite a dangerous day in the saddle.
When you factor in the wind though, then we could see some carnage…
40km/h cross, cross-tail and tail winds will see the riders pushed all over the road and it will make the TTT incredibly difficult. After all, this is a discipline where the guys are so close together; requiring movements that are in sync with each other. It will make the timing of change-overs incredibly important because if you get that wrong, then your squad could be split due to the wind.
I’m personally looking forward to watching it but I’m sure the riders won’t be saying the same.
The best TTT team in the World (although Sunweb would argue with that given their 2017 title), the Swiss outfit come into this as favourites. They don’t have their crack squad with them but nonetheless, they have some very handy TTT riders in Valenciana. With plenty of power among their midst, I’d be very surprised not to see them on the podium come the end of the day. Stranger things have happened though.
Sky have a stupidly strong team here with them and they will expect nothing less than the win. They have engines throughout the roster and there theoretically should be no weak links. However, they are not the dominant force that they used to be in this discipline so I’m intrigued to see if they’ve got their act together over the winter. Let’s just hope the wheels don’t come off their title charge this time…
Sorry, that one was just too easy!
We’re in Spain and it’s a TTT, with Movistar always going well here. That could be through some good local knowledge, or it might be from some overly helpful camera motors, but who’s to judge! Valverde is back to his best already it seems and I’m sure he’ll be happy of the buffer he has. A loss of 30 seconds on the stage would be a solid result for him in the GC picture, but I imagine he’ll want to be a lot closer than that. One thing that concerns me is the bad weather and that might cause him to ease off a bit due to the nasty fall in the Tour last year. I hope it doesn’t ruin his overall chances.
They have an under-rated squad for this discipline here with them in my opinion. Obviously they have a few stand-out TTers but the rest of the squad is very solid. I was impressed with how they rode on the opening day and if they perform anything like that tomorrow, they are dark horses for the stage. I just hope they’ve changed their tyre supplier from what they used in the rainy TT at the Tour last year.
I wouldn’t normally include Astana in this, but given how aggressive they rode today, then why not! They have a mixed bag of riders here and will rely heavy on the likes of Sanchez, Fuglsang and Grivko, but they do have the power to compete. A top 5 and a 40 second loss at most would be a good return for them.
It’s a TTT so the easy option would be to go with BMC but I just have a funny feeling Jumbo are going to surprise everyone. Don’t ask me why!
I hope it’s more a Viviani “feeling” than an Alex Edmondson one.
Thanks as always for reading, who do you think will win tomorrow? Will we see some big time gaps? Can Valverde hold onto the race lead? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.