Vuelta A Espana 2018 Stage 8

Not just any Spaniard in Spain

RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini

Valverde  Shows-off his Sprint

Spanish veteran Alejandro Valverde kept his composure on a tricky finish to claim an unexpected victory on the eighth stage of the Tour of Spain on Saturday. Frenchman Rudy Mollard, of the Groupama team, held on to the race leader’s red jersey after finishing safely among the peloton. Mollard will start Sunday’s hilly ninth stage, a 200-kilometer ride from Talavera de la Reina to the ski station of La Covatilla with a 37 second lead on Valverde and a 51 second lead on fourth-placed Briton Simon Yates.

Organizers had added spice to the finale of the 195.5 kilometer race from Linares, the peloton forced to practically turn back on itself after negotiating a roundabout inside the final kilometer. But Valderde held his nerve to stay in sprint contention and proved strongest in a tight, uphill finish to pip three-time world champion Peter Sagan to the honors.

Sagan, of the Bora team, finished third with Dutchman Danny von Poppel (LottoNL-Jumbo) in third place. The Slovakian had secured a record-equaling sixth green jersey for the points competition and won three stages at the Tour de France in July, but appears to be paying for those efforts. After a third-place finish on Monday, Sagan edged closer to a stage win on Friday where he finished second behind Frenchman Tony Gallopin. On a finish that should have been to Sagan’s liking on Saturday, the Slovakian was left counting his losses again as Valverde came from out behind his wheel to claim his second stage win of this edition.

“I was told how difficult the finish was and that I could even lose time there,” said Valverde, who claimed it had not been his plan to win the stage. “As a result, I’d planned not to try and go for the stage win but just not to lose time. But then I followed Sagan’s wheel and in the end overtook him. I know I’m on form, but I even surprised myself.” Although 38 years old, Valverde said: “My age doesn’t reflect my physical form or my mentality.” And on Sunday’s stage in the high mountains, he will be hoping to show his younger rivals he can remain in overall victory contention. “It’s a real mountain stage tomorrow (Sunday),” said Valverde. “We should really see who has what it takes to make the podium of this Tour of Spain.”

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