Alejandro Valverde wins Tour of Catalonia for 2nd time
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Not even a one-minute time penalty could stop a dominant Alejandro Valverde from winning his second Tour of Catalonia.
Valverde secured the victory by finishing first in the 139-kilometer (86-mile) seventh stage on Sunday, perfectly timing his final sprint at a hilltop overlooking Barcelona to beat Jarlinson Pantano of Colombia at the line.
Valverde had received the penalty on Wednesday after race officials ruled that some Movistar riders pushed one another in Tuesday's team time trial. The Spaniard quickly rebounded, though, and stayed in control through the end of the race in northeastern Spain.
''Fantastic week,'' Valverde said. ''The team was great from the start.''
The 36-year-old Valverde had won two other stages and finished second in another. He took the overall lead for good after the fifth stage.
He finished the weeklong race more than one minute ahead of two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Marc Soler, who closed out the all-Spanish podium.
The Tour Down Under race earlier this year in Australia avoided ''podium girls,'' where women greet and kiss winners on the podium. The Tour of Catalonia followed this in all stages in a move to fight sexism.
Valverde also won the Tour of Catalonia in 2009, the same year he clinched the Spanish Vuelta for his only Grand Tour title. He had won the Andalucia Vuelta earlier this year.
''Honestly, I didn't expect these results,'' Valverde said. ''I planned to go day-by-day, and then things started improving.''
Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome of Team Sky fell out of contention during Saturday's stage. He made a solo run for the stage victory on Sunday but was not able to finish it off, ending the race only 30th overall, almost 30 minutes off the lead.
British rider Adam Yates was fourth overall and American Tejay van Garderen fifth. Garderen was the overall leader after the third and fourth stages.
It was the third second-place finish for Contador this year, adding to his runner-up finishes at Paris-Nice and the Andalucia Vuelta.