Lashing rain saw Tour of Valencia organisers decide to neutralise Friday’s 23.2km team time-trial, leaving local favourite Alejandro Valverde’s overall lead intact despite BMC’s wide margin of victory.

Valverde won his first stage victory on Thursday since breaking a knee in a crash during a Tour de France time-trial run in heavy rain last July.

Team Sky had been expected to win the stage but they came in an almost laughable 21st, a full four minutes behind BMC’s winning time while Valverde’s Movistar were 11th, as teams trundled around the course knowing time differences would be ignored.

“Given the weather this morning it was a good decision and you have to respect that. So we still have the lead and tomorrow we’ll have to defend it,” Valverde said after the stage.

The Tour will be won and lost during Saturday’s fourth stage, featuring some testing climbs, with Luis Leon Sanchez four seconds behind Valverde.

Dane Jakob Fuglsand is at 6sec, while Sky’s Wout Pouls, another top climber, is one of a clutch of riders just 29 seconds off the pace. – Agence France-Presse

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