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With a powerful uphill sprint, Valverde claimed his second Spanish road race title in Caceres; Barbero and his teammate Jesus Herrada completed the podium

Photo: Sirotti

ALEJANDRO VALVERDE

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JESUS HERRADA

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MOVISTAR TEAM

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NATIONAL CHAMPIONSSHIPS

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28.06.2015 @ 14:45 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) fired a warning shot ahead of the Tour de France by claiming his second Spanish road race title in today’s race in Caceres. After his teammate Imanol Erviti had animated the day, he emerged as the fastest in the uphill sprint, beating Carlos Barbero (Caja Rural) and his teammate Jesus Herrada into the minor podium positions.

 

One day after Vincenzo Nibali conquered the Italian road race title, it was another Tour de France favourite who proved that he is ready for the biggest cycling race in the world. After he had helped his teammate Ion Izagirre to win last year’s title, Alejandro Valverde left no one doubting his superiority in today’s Spanish road race championships where he claimed he second title seven years after his first.

 

The majority of the race had been animated by his teammate Imanol Erviti and so Valverde and the rest of the formidable Movistar team could take it easy in the peloton, forcing the other major team, Caja Rural, to do the work. As the late attacks didn’t work either, it came down to an uphill sprint which Valverde won in his trademark style, beating Carlos Barbero into second. His teammate Jesus Herrada made it a great day for the biggest Spanish team by finishing third.

 

The 2015 Spanish road race championships were held on a hilly 39.2km circuit in Caceres that the riders would cover almost five times for an overall distance of 189.4km. It was a lumpy affair with several smaller climbs, including a tough ramp to the finish line.

 

It was a brutally hot day when 141 riders took the start to find out who would take over the Spanish champion’s jersey from Ion Izagirre. As it is always the case in the championships races, it was a fast start with lots of attacks and it took time for an early break to be formed.

 

A 14-rider group got clear at the 8km mark but after two kilometres of chasing it was back together. Instead, Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Miguel Angel Benito (Caja Rural), Hector Saez (Caja Rural), Eneko Lizarralde (Murias Taldea), Marcos Garcia (Louletano) and Aitor Gonzalez (AMPO) escaped and they had built an advantage of 40 seconds at the 18km mark.

 

Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and Sebastian Mascaro (Burgos) took off in pursuit and they were 40 seconds behind after 22km of racing while the peloton was at 1.15. However, Movistar accelerated and brought the chasers back and the gap down to just 40 seconds at the 27km mark.

 

At the first passage of the finish line, the gap was 1.20 and here Mario Gonzalez (ActiveJet) took off in pursuit. He stayed clear for a while but was brought back while Movistar kept the gap stable between 2.00 and 2.30 for more than an hour.

 

At the end of the second hour, the gap got out to a maximum of 3.00 before Movistar decided to turn on the screws. As they passed the 100km mark, they had reduced their deficit to 2.00.

 

At the start of the penultimate lap, the gap had gone out to 2.40 as Movistar took a short breather to prepare for the finale. Moments later, they made a huge acceleration and at the 125km mark, the escapees only had an advantage of 30 seconds.

 

The escapees accelerated and dropped Gonzalez while Movistar again decided to step off the gas. Moments later, Garcia attacked from the break and was joined by Erviti.

 

The pair reopened their advantage to 2.45 and distanced their former companions by 20 seconds while Gonzalez was caught by the peloton. Meanwhile, Caja Rural took over the pace-setting in the peloton.

 

Saez was the next rider to be caught by the peloton before Benito was also brought back. Lizarraldo fought hard on his own but finally he also had to surrender, leaving just Erviti and Garcia in front with an advantage of 2.15 at the 144km mark.

 

At the start of the final lap, Caja Rural had brought the gap down to 1.30 and at the 150km mark, it dropped to less than a minute. That was the signal for Erviti to take off and he stayed 10 seconds ahead of Garcia for a while.

 

With 25km to go, Erviti was 20 seconds ahead of Garcia while he has an advantage of 50 seconds over the peloton. Moments later, Garcia was brought back, leaving just Erviti to press on.

 

For a long time, Erviti managed to maintain a 35-second advantage over the Caja Rural-led peloton but inside the final 15km to go, he started to lose ground. With 11km to go, it was over for the Movistar rider which opened the door for new attacks.

 

The aggression allowed Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Pello Bilbao (Caja Rural) and Angel Sanchez (W52) to build an advantage of 15 seconds. With the two major teams both in the group, it forced Murias Taldea to chase.

 

There was no cooperation in the trio and so they were brought back with 4km to go. Instead, Diego Rubio took off and he passed the flamme rouge with an advantage of a few metres.

 

However, he was unable to keep the charging peloton at bay and a late attack by Eloy Teruel didn’t work either. Instead, it came down to an uphill sprint and here Valverde took the win, distancing Barbero and his teammate Herrada.

 

With the win, Valverde will wear the Spanish champion’s jersey in the Tour de France while his teammate Jonathan Castroviejo won the time trial. The next major event in the country is Prueba Villafranca on July 25.

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