Procycling

# TACTICS 101: VALVERDE GANGS UP ON ASTANA

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Two against one in a bike race usually favours the pair. The theory is that they can take turns attacking the individual, and eventually one will get away.

However, when the finale of the GP Miguel Indurain pitched Alejandro Valverde against the Astana pairing of Luis León Sánchez and Alexey Lutsenko, things didn’t exactly go to plan, as Valverde escaped to win alone.

To be fair to the Astana pairing, a lot of bike racing had happened by the point the trio came together. Sánchez had attacked in a group of four with 45km to go and so had already expended a lot of energy in the final hour. On terrain as tough as that offered by the GP Miguel Indurain, that would inevitably be costly. When Valverde finally bridged up with 10km to go, having attacked on the penultimat­e climb, Sánchez stopped coming through. He could cite fatigue, but also the presence of two team-mates in the chasing group. While Valverde led up ahead, Lutsenko bridged alone from the dozen or so riders in the next group, was immediatel­y dropped on a short drag, then rallied and overtook Sánchez and Valverde on the descent.

It looked at that point like Astana were working Valverde over - Lutsenko was off the front and

Valverde had to do the work to close the gap. The next step would be for Sánchez in turn to attack. However, while it looked like Sánchez and Lutsenko were ganging up on Valverde, Valverde was about to combine forces with the final steep climb of the race to gang up on them. He attacked and blew past Lutsenko as the road reared up, with Sánchez definitive­ly dropped, and with only a kilometre from the top down to the finish, there was no time for the Astana pairing to rally.

With three riders in the top 10, Astana were without doubt the strongest team in the race. There was similarly no doubt about who the strongest rider had been.

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 ??  ?? Valverde has Lutsenko (l) and Sánchez exactly where he wants them: behind him
Valverde has Lutsenko (l) and Sánchez exactly where he wants them: behind him

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