Valverde expects time trial improvement after suspension
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Valverde expects time trial improvement after suspension

by VeloNation Press at 2:13 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Former Vuelta winner and Cobo presented as a new Movistar riders

Alejandro ValverdeHe’s been sidelined from the peloton since May 2010, but Alejandro Valverde has said that he used his enforced time out of competition to try to overcome one of his handicaps in stage races.

“I had time enough to train into long time trials, my weakest point,” he said at today’s Movistar team presentation in Madrid.

Valverde has traditionally been a strong climber and sprinter but has been hampered in races against the clock. That has cost him victories in the past, but he’s hoping that the work he has put in means he will be stronger in the future and thus pick up more stage race wins.

The 31 year old was handed a sanction by CAS on May 31st 2010 due to his part in Operación Puerto, losing an appeal taken by the UCI and WADA. He has worked hard during his suspension, saying in November that he had clocked up 10,000 kilometres as part of his training for 2012.

The Movistar rider has continued to prepare for the season since then, and will resume racing on January 15th when he lines out in the Down Under Classic. He’ll then begin the Santos Tour Down Under two days later.

After returning to Europe, he’ll compete in the Mallorca Challenge races, the Vuelta a Andalusia, the Clásica de Almería, the Volta a Catalunya, the GP Miguel Indurain and the Vuelta al País Vasco. Valverde will then build up towards the Tour de France, where he will lead the team.

The Spaniard is keen to return to racing, but also admits to being uncertain about how it will go for him. “It's been a year and a half without competing and that's why we’ve got to be cautious,” he warned. “But I think I trained hard and I did things right. I really enjoyed what I did until this point in my career. Now we're starting a new era with this new squad, Movistar Team, which gave me a new opportunity in cycling and which I want to reward with victories.

“Physically I feel more relaxed. I trained hard, I tried to simulate the hard pace of the competitions, but I didn't have the reference your rivals give you. I have to see how I respond at the end of the races. Still, if I'm lacking some stamina, I'll start getting it back in Australia.”

New start, old denials:

Alejandro ValverdeSomewhat inevitably, Valverde was asked about his doping suspension and the factors leading to it. DNA evidence linked blood bags seized during the Puerto raids to him, making the case a watertight one, but he continued to deny involvement today.

That’s something which might be welcomed by the supporters who believe he was innocent, but it’s been met with criticism from others who believe he should acknowledge past mistakes before being able to move on.

He doesn’t agree with the latter. “I did nothing wrong. I did everything legally. My conscience is clear. I am only thinking about returning to racing,” he insisted to El Tiempo.

Of the DNA evidence, Valverde claims that he was treated unfairly and unethically. “I suggested that they compare it [DNA] in a neutral laboratory, but in Italy they refused that. For that [reason] they sanctioned me because they compared by DNA in this country without my presence. They said that the bag of plasma was mine, but they couldn’t do that to a criminal. Nothing that they did was legal.

“They didn’t let me live in peace…they chased me and then they punished me. Some have paid earlier and others later.”

Insisting that he doesn’t hold a grudge, Valverde said that he wants to move on from that situation and concentrate on the future.

Current Vuelta champion Cobo also on board:

Juan Jose CoboToday’s presentation also saw the 2011 Vuelta a España winner Juan José Cobo don a Movistar jersey for the first time. He had originally been expected to race with the Geox TMC team but the withdrawal of the main sponsor and subsequent collapse of that squad meant that he was left without a team.

He had competed with Movistar’s predecessor Caisse d’Epargne in 2010 but had a poor season; despite that, the squad decided to take him on once again. He wants to make amends for what happened before.

“I think this will be my chance to get that bad feeling from last year [2010] out of myself,” he said. “They gave me confidence and I couldn't cope with it. Now they gave me a second chance, and my goal is to get some new, big victories for this team, making all of us happy…I can repay Eusebio.”

He won’t travel to the Santos Tour Down Under but will join up with Valverde in Mallorca and work towards riding the Tour de France. After that, he will defend his title in the Vuelta a España.

General manager Eusebio Unzue said that the signings would ‘put the icing’ on what he said is already an interesting structure. The team chief anticipates a very strong 2012 due to the two new riders coming on board, and will be looking forward to different headlines about Valverde.


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