Valverde abdicates, but keeps yellow at hand
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Monday, July 7, 2008

Valverde abdicates, but keeps yellow at hand

by Agence France-Presse at 3:38 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
Yellow jersey hopeful Alejandro Valverde gave up the Tour de France lead willingly on Tuesday, but admitted he had raced the hectic third stage with one eye on the crucial fourth stage.

"We controlled things in the first part of the stage," he said of his Caisse d'Epargne team, who eventually dropped off the front of the peloton once an ultimately futile pursuit of a four-man breakaway was launched.

"In the final part of the stage we thought the sprinters' teams were going to start collaborating to help bring back the break, but they wasted the chance to fight for the stage win.

"We knew that if we didn't lose the yellow jersey today we would have lost it tomorrow, so it doesn't change a lot for us."

There are numerous stake to be considered on the first time trial of the race on Tuesday.

The first is the stage win, with Fabian Cancellara of CSC, the reigning world time trial champion, being tipped as the man to clock the fastest time on the rolling 29.5km course around Cholet.

The second is the battle for the yellow jersey, with Scotland's David Millar among the men hoping to beat, or at least stay close to, Cancellara ahead of some tricky climbing days in the Massif Central later this week. Millar goes into the race with a six-second lead on the Swiss.

Caisse d'Epargne ace Valverde meanwhile is among the big favourites for overall victory in Paris on July 27, along with Australian Cadel Evans, the runner-up by a measly 23secs last year.

Neither Valverde or Evans are likely to win the first race against the clock, but it is in their interest to clock the fastest times possible.

The starting order of Tuesday's stage is determined by a reversal of the race's general classification - the last-placed rider, Belgian Wim Van Sevenant, going first.

Evans, who only has a one-second deficit to Valverde, will start ninth from last, giving Valverde, who starts fourth from last, an arguable psychological advantage.

Valverde, who displated his class by punching his way to a superb victory on the hilly finish of the first stage, on Monday showed that his team also have tactical acumen.

"The aim for me was to make sure I started behind all the (yellow jersey) favourites, so that I will have an idea of mine and their times during the time trial," said Valverde.

"I managed to have a look at the profile of the course in March. It should suit me okay: it's not too long, and a little bit techincal."

The last time Valverde and Evans contended a major time trial over a similar distance was at the Dauphine Libere stage race in June, where the Spaniard beat the Australian into third place, albeit on a 31km course that was far more undulating.

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