VALDEZCARAY, Spain, Aug 21 (Reuters) - Alejandro Valverde
accused Team Sky of a lack of respect on Tuesday after he
crashed near the end of stage four to lose the overall lead in
the Tour of Spain.
The British team denied they had caused the crash which
meant the Movistar rider finished one minute 59 seconds down on
stage winner Simon Clarke of Australia.
Joaquim Rodríguez moved into the overall lead after the
summit finish at Valdezcaray, one second ahead of Sky rider
Chris Froome of Britain, with Spain's Alberto Contador in third
five seconds adrift. Valverde is now ninth.
The Spaniard went to the Sky team bus after the finish to
remonstrate about the crash, which happened as Sky launched an
attack at the front of the pack before the final 14-km climb to
"I'm not cross because I lost the lead but because there was
no respect," Valverde, who was visibly annoyed, told reporters.
Team Sky's director Nicolas Portal said he did not think his
riders were responsible for Valverde's fall. Portal said he had
not seen Valverde was on the ground when he passed the crash in
the team car a few seconds after it happened.
"We don't do this to crash Valverde - we don't like this, we
don't want this," Portal said.
"I told our riders to continue, but not to go at full gas."
Rodríguez claimed the leader's jersey after countering a
joint attack by Contador and Froome on the final climb, and said
he did not think the crash was caused intentionally.
"In those circumstances each team does what they want, I'm
not criticising anybody," the Katusha rider said. "At first we
collaborated (in the mass attack), but once we'd heard that
Alejandro had fallen I told the team to ease back."
Stage winner Clarke's victory came after the Orica-GreenEdge
rider moved into a break of five early on a 160-km stage raced
in temperatures again in the mid-thirties celsius.
Clarke outsprinted his most persistent rival, world time
trial champion Tony Martin of Germany, to claim his first win as
a professional at 26. Kazakh Assan Bazayev was third, 22 seconds
"It's my first ever Grand Tour and I didn't want to take it
easy like everybody told me to, I wanted to see if there was any
chance of me getting a win right from the start," Clarke, who
finished in four hours 30 minutes 26 seconds, said.
The Vuelta finishes on Sept. 9 in Madrid.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)