Valverde says he’s amongst the best riders in the Santos Tour Down Under
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Valverde says he’s amongst the best riders in the Santos Tour Down Under

by VeloNation Press at 12:32 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour Down Under
Spaniard satisfied with showing on day two to Stirling

Alejandro ValverdeOn day three of his return to competition after a long suspension, Alejandro Valverde showed that he is near top form with a fourth place finish on the stage to Stirling in the Tour Down Under.

The Movistar rider was part of a large bunch which finished just over a minute behind solo winner Will Clarke (UniSA). He and Sky Procycling’s Edvald Boasson Hagen launched the sprint, but the Spaniard was overhauled by Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Simon Gerrans (GreenEdge) in the final metres.

Despite being passed close to the line, Valverde was pleased with how things played out and the encouragement his performance gave him. “This was a day when I wanted to see how I could feel, and I found myself to be competitive again,” he said.

“Yesterday was an extremely hard day, one of the most suffered I ever had on a bike due to the enormous heat, but the temperatures were cooler today and I showed I'm fine. This boosts my confidence for the future. It takes the pressure off myself after so much time without racing, but we've got to be cautious and see how I recover from the efforts.”

Valverde was sidelined from the sport on May 31st 2010 due to his part in Operación Puerto. He’s been training hard since then and despite saying before the race that he might need some time to get his sharpness back, his and the team’s post-stage comments suggested that the overall classification is a target.

Ditto for how Team Movistar rode the stage, with Imanol Erviti leading the bunch for many of the early kilometres in a bid to try to stop the break of Clarke and Martin Kohler (BMC Racing Team) from gaining too much time, after which Javi Moreno and then Angel Madrazo attacked to try to provoke the bunch to knuckle down.

“The problem was the lack of cooperation,” said directeur sportif José Luis Arrieta afterwards. “From the 50th kilometer we set Erviti on front, but seeing that no one was collaborating, we chose to launch Madrazo ahead, but they didn't let him gain more than one minute. Eventually we had to put all riders on front, because our GC chances were being damaged.”

Valverde also essentially confirmed he has his sights on the overall classification. “At the beginning they left us with full responsibility, and after that it was impossible to chase him [Clarke] down,” he said. “The team rode marvellously today and they showed we're a great block, but we can't take full responsibility so far from the finish.”

Although the stage win was out of the question, he went for it at the finish anyway. There were two reasons for doing so; one was to test his condition, and the second was to try to pick up a time bonus on the kind of uphill rise which suits him.

However he mistimed his kick for the line and lost out as a result. “I started sprinting too early with Boasson Hagen because the headwind was a bit strong, and Matthews overtook me at the end,” he said. He then made a further error which cost him a time bonus. “I stopped pedalling in the final meters and Gerrans went over me just over the line. I could haven taken third but, apart from that, my objective was to be amongst the best. Seeing the big riders here, with Boasson Hagen and Matthews, who won here last year, I think I did.”

Valverde is now 20th overall, twelve seconds behind new race leader Kohler. Stage one winner Andre Greipel, Matthews, Gerrans, Rohan Dennis (Uni-SA) and Eduard Vorganov (Katusha) are between ten and two seconds ahead of him. He’ll aim to make up time on the four remaining stages, particularly Saturday’s race to the top of Old Willunga Hill.


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