Valverde counting down the days to his return, implies Movistar contract is likely
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Valverde counting down the days to his return, implies Movistar contract is likely

by VeloNation Press at 5:58 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Spaniard nearing end of lengthy ban, lays out 2012 targets

Alejandro ValverdeWith the date when he is permitted to return to competition now just a month and a half away, Alejandro Valverde has spoken about his current negotiations, the chances that he will sign with the Movistar team and also his goals for the 2012 season.

The former Vuelta a España winner is setting his sights high, acknowledging that it could take him some time to return to top fitness due to a lack of racing sharpness, but also saying that he wants to aim for the biggest events in the sport.

“I have two in mind, which are complicated,” he said, when asked about his goals by Diario Siglo XX1. “They are very difficult to win, but I have them in mind. One is cycling’s world championship and another is the Tour de France.

“The world championship, because, well, I've always been very close, I have two silver medals and one bronze, and I know I can get, although it won’t be easy. And the Tour…for one reason or another, I could finish it only twice, although both times in the top ten, taking sixth and eighth place. It is far [from the win], but I can fight for it.”

Valverde has viewed with interest the details which emerged from the launch of the 2012 Tour de France. He’s seen a route which has three mountain-top finishes, less than before, and also three individual time trials. He describes the route as a ‘little strange’ due to what he believes are excessive time trial distances and few mountains. “I would have preferred a bit more mountain and less time trials, because it would improve my chances. I think it's a Tour de France for Wiggins or Evans himself,” he said, adding that his compatriot Contador could also ride well.

He’s got another goal too: after the recent Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling about the case of athlete LaShawn Merritt, a IOC ruling blocking sportspeople from competing in the next Olympic Games after their return has been thrown out. That enables him to try to win gold for Spain in London. “It's great news to know that I can be in the Olympics, to be able to represent your country at the top,” he said, thinking about the Games. “And that makes me very excited.”

Valverde was banned due to his involvement with Operacion Puerto. He always insisted he wasn’t involved, although DNA testing showed that this wasn’t the case and CAS deemed there was enough evidence to sanction him for it. He doesn’t change his stance, but also says that he wants to move on.

“It is clear that I have been deprived of my work, of my sport, of what I enjoy doing. And also something else, because I've always maintained that I am innocent and I maintain that. I had to undergo the penalty TAS set. It is done, and that’s it.”

The big question is, where will he go? He spent many long years within the Caisse d’Epargne structure, which is now backed by Movistar. He’s trained with that team on several occasions during his suspension and, as expected, it is looking quite possible that he will be once again part of that formation next year.

He underlines that nothing is yet sealed, but also that it is likely. “Nothing is done yet. But it is true that there is good feeling between both parties. It is not something which is finalised, but it is true that everything is very advanced.

“There have been offers from other teams, that’s true. But at other times, I have said that I must be grateful to my former team, it has been very good to me. I’ve been very happy with them and I think I should be grateful.”

Valverde says that he isn’t sure yet what his racing programme will be like, saying that he wants to finalise his team first and then start planning. He knows that there will be a shock to the system to return to racing after nearly two years away, saying that training is never the same as competition. However he says that he has done what he can to minimize the loss in condition.

“I have trained very well, I've done many kilometres…I've done about 10,000 kilometres, which is enough to train. The level of effort has certainly not been the same as when you race, but I tried to simulate racing with hard training,” he explained. “I know what I notice it [the jump in effort] when I get back, but I hope it’ll be for the shortest time possible.”

Another thing he has done is taken a break in September rather than his usual ‘off-period’ of October, thus returning to training earlier and ensuring that he has more kilometres in his legs than his rivals when he first pins on a number, clips into pedals and begins his second, post-Puerto career.


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