Forty-year-old Alejandro Valverde earned his first victory in two years and the Movistar men’s team’s first win of the season at Saturday’s UCI 1.Pro-rated, 22nd Gran Premio Miguel Indurain in Toledo, Spain. It was his third triumph in the race, tying the record of Ángel Vicioso. The race, one of the those cancelled last spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, acted as a bit of a prologue of the WorldTour Itzulia Basque Country that begins on Monday. James Piccoli was top Canadian–26th is his best-ever result for Israel Start-up Nation in a one-day race.
In 2017 Michael Woods came runner-up to Simon Yates in the GP Miguel Indurain. In its 22nd edition, there were three Canadians racing: James Piccoli, Alex Cataford and Robin Plamondon of Israel Start-up Nation, one of nine WorldTour teams involved. Plamondon is actually with the Continental side Israel Cycling Academy but moved up for the race.
The 203-km route around the province of Toledo had over 3800 metres of climbing in a profile that looked like a piranha’s jawline. There were only four categorized climbs, with three Cat. 2s and a Cat 1 in the final two-thirds of the course. Many uncategorized climbs would challenge the riders, including four passages of the 600-metre, 12.1 percent Mur d’Ibarra, its final clamber in the finishing circuit 2 km from the line in Estrella.
🚩 Estella – 🏁 Estella, 203,2km.
⏰: 12:10 – 17:15(CEST)
⚠️: A difficult day with four, tough categorised climbs in the second half of the race.
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamEmiratesUAE) April 3, 2021
A sextet of ProTeam and Continental Team fugitives rippled along the hills ahead of an Astana-Premier Tech and Cofidis-led peloton.
Cataford dropped his chain in the middle of the peloton on one of the many hills.
It was Movistar’s pace than brought the breakaway back at the foot of the Cat. 1 climb, Puerto de Guirguillano. Valverde’s squad dragged the peloton over the Guiguillano and the Cat. 2 Alto de Lezaun at a pace meant to discourage any attacks.
But a dig over the top of Lezuan lit the fuse and a 16-strong group bounced away on the descent. A further decanting of that group made a quartet containing Cataford’s teammate Ben Hermans and Astana-Premier Tech’s Spanish champion LL Sanchez.
On the final categorized climb of the day, the gap was 25-seconds at the foot. The breakaway began to fragment and eventually Sanchez went clear.
With 11-km to go and Sanchez 15-seconds up the road, Valverde attacked, chipping off an elite group from the peloton. Valverde went again and reached Sanchez at the top of the climb. Just as Sanchez’s teammate Alexey Lutsenko bridged over, Valverde surged once more and only Sanchez could hang.
It was on the Mur d’Ibarra that Valverde finally dislodged his companion.
Valverde, who recently finished just off the podium of the Volta a Catalunya, snaked down the Ibarra and hung on for the win. Lutsenko and Sanchez were on the podium with him.
2021 GP Miguel Indurain
1) Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) 5:10:47
2) Alexey Lutsenko (Kazakhstan/Astana-Premier Tech) +0:05
3) LL Sanchez (Spain/Astana-Premier Tech) +0:15
26) James Piccoli (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +1:08
86) Alex Cataford (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +15:05
91) Robin Plamondon (Canada/Israel Start-up Nation) +20:47