Alejandro Valverde: “We have a clear intention in mind this year”
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Alejandro Valverde: “We have a clear intention in mind this year”

by Ben Atkins at 9:39 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Movistar captain aiming at the final podium; Spanish team wary of Corsican opening stages

alejandro valverdeMovistar starts the Tour de France tomorrow with the one clear goal of putting Alejandro Valverde on the final podium for the first time in his career. The Spanish team, like many others, has built its season around the three-week race, and feels that it has its best team ever to deliver its objective.

With the race starting in Corsica for the very first time, however, team manager Eusebio Unzué is even more wary than usual about what could be a complicated opening phase.

“What worries us right now is hiding from misfortune in these first three stages in Corsica,” he said. “The Tour is the biggest goal of the season for all teams and riders, and that adds an extra dose of danger, increased by the roads of this island. It's crucial for us to reach stage four in Nice so as to make a good team time trial; we have a strong squad to contest the win or, at least, not losing too much time in view of our GC chances. We'll build up from there, hoping to get well into the mountains.”

Valverde has won his home Tour, the Vuelta a España - and finished in second place twice - but has yet to better his sixth place in the Tour de France of 2007. He returned to the race last year, following a two-year suspension for his involvement with notorious doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and finished a lowly 20th - taking a prestigious stage win on the way - but is confident of going far better this time.

“We have a clear intention in mind this year: fighting for a podium place in Paris, or even yellow if possible,” he said. “It's true that I'm getting a bit old, 33 right now, and we have gone through many moments of joy and sadness in the Tour.

“We did well more or less in the last few years, with some stage victories, but I think we can aspire to something else in this year's race. I feel different right now: another mentality, more experience; a stronger squad than the already-powerful ones I always had. We have more conviction and I think we can do well. Looking at the race routes from previous editions, this year's doesn't do bad for me at all. I like the mountains, and also the TT's suit me - except for the first individual one, of course. We have a solid block, ready not to lose much time in the TTT or even fight for the win, and the second ITT is really hard and looks good for my conditions.”

Looking around at his rivals, Valverde concurs with the overwhelming opinion that last year’s runner up Chris Froome (Team Sky) is the rider to beat, but he feels he has what it takes to compete against the others.

"For all he has done, it's obvious that Froome is a step ahead of the rest,” Valverde conceded. “But behind him, there are some riders like me, really close to each other. I respect every single one of them, but don't fear them at all. The race is long, open to different kinds strategies every day, and things change, but our goal on paper is making it onto the podium - I don't know which spot.

“It will be a hard race against Sky, but they're not invincible,” he added. “There are some hard stages which aren't necessarily mountain-top finishes - it might happen something as in the last Vuelta a España, decided on a day where nobody was expecting it.

As he was in last year’s Vuelta a España - where Valverde finished second to Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) - Nairo Quintana will be Valverde’s key teammate in the mountains, and the Spanish rider knows exactly what he can expect from the young Colombian.

“Nairo and I are good friends and team-mates - in and out of the races, our relationship is pretty good,” Valverde said. “We all know his class and quality, and though it's true he will be debuting in the Tour this year and we must stay calm and let him learn bit by bit, I know he can fight for yellow in the future.”

nairo quintanaFor Quintana 2013 will mark his debut in the Tour de France and, despite his victory in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, will be putting his personal ambitions aside for Valverde, just as he did in last year’s Vuelta.

“I have spent almost two months in Colombia without any racing, trained hard there and my feelings are good before the race,” Quintana said. “I'll try and get into the racing condition during the first stages and help Alejandro as much as I can. I didn't think about the white jersey or the KOM one: we are all focused on helping Valverde. We'll see how the race goes, with the mountains and the team strategies - we might try to shine as well as breaking Sky's control of the race.”

Quintana first caught the attention of the European peloton in 2010, when he won the Tour de l’Avenir, and this victory is one of the things that makes him look forward to the upcoming Tour.

"I really like France - it brings me good memories,” he said. “Ever since I started following cycling as a child, I already watched and heard the adventures of [Miguel] Indurain, [Santiago] Botero or Alejandro himself in the Tour, and dreamt of racing these competitions.

“The Tour de l'Avenir was the race that brought me to the spotlight in cycling for the first time, and I did well also on other French races like the Dauphiné. The crowds are usually big and the roads suit me well.”

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