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Vuelta a Espana 2018: Alejandro Valverde pips Sagan to win Stage 8

Pete Muir
1 Sep 2018

Movistar's Valverde proves to be strongest on an uphill finish

Movistar's Alejandro Valverde has won Stage 8 of the 2018 Vuelta a Espana after outsprinting Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan on an uphill finish.

After a long hot day in the saddle, the big names all arrived at the finish together, meaning that there was little change in the overall standings, and Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) hangs on to his GC lead.

In the final kilometre, it looked like the World Champion had positioned himself perfectly for the win, but as he began his sprint for the line, Valverde slipped past and won with a bike length to spare.

The story of the stage

Usually, one week into a Grand Tour, the race begins to settle down and the likely winners start to cement their positions at the head of the GC. Not so this year's Vuelta a Espana.

As the race entered its second week, it was still entirely uncertain as to how it would pan out, and the parcours of Stage 8 didn't promise to provide any answers.

According to the race programme, the stage was 'flat', but the kind of flat that includes over 2,000m of climbing, including an uphill drag to the finish. It could be a day for the sprinters, or it could possibly better suit the puncheurs, or maybe it would prove to be tailor-made for a win from the breakaway. It was anyone's guess.

The 195km route from Linares to Almaden took the riders into the dry central region of Spain, and the temperatures were well into the 30s from the start. As such, the main peloton, still smarting from a tough Stage 7, decided to take it easy for the early part of the day.

Almost immediately after the gun a break of three riders took off up the road, and none of the big teams were minded to chase them down. Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Jorge Cubero (Burgos-BH) and Hector Saez (Euskadi-Murias) quickly established a big lead, peaking at almost 14 minutes ahead of the pack.

With about 100km to go the peloton woke up and realised that they might need to work a bit harder if they weren't going to gift the stage to one of the breakaway trio. So the pace ramped up and the gap closed quickly.

On the front of the peloton, teams such as Quick-Step Floors pulled hard on behalf of their in-form sprinter Elia Viviani, while Bora-Hansgrohe did the same in support of Peter Sagan, who looked to be bouncing back from the illness that had affected him on previous stages.

Groupama-FDJ also did a fair amount of work, protecting the leader's red jersey of Rudy Molard. As such, by the time break was 20km from home, its advantage had shivelled to a mere two minutes.

The breakaway was eventually swallowed up with 7km to go, as the big teams organised themselves into lead out trains. Each team was aware that they would have to negotiate an awkward roundabout in the final kilometre, requiring a 180° turn, and they all wanted to be at the front of the pack when it arrived.

As the road pitched up in the final few kilometres, the attacks started coming, but all of them were covered by the big teams. None of them, however, could gain control of the run-in.

At the rounabout, everyone made it around safely, and Sagan positioned himself perfectly for the final uphill sprint. It looked like he might have it, when Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) appeared out of nowhere and proved to have more power than the World Champion.

Valverde took the win a bike length from Sagan, with Lotto-NLJumbo's Danny Van Poppel taking the final spot on the podium.

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