Alejandro Valverde: “The Tour is not won or lost until we get to Paris”
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Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Alejandro Valverde: “The Tour is not won or lost until we get to Paris”

by Ben Atkins at 7:46 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Content with second overall after complicated first week; would swap stage wins for final podium

alejandro valverdeAlejandro Valverde (Movistar) ended the first phase of the 2013 Tour de France in second place overall, trailing Maillot Jaune Chris Froome (Team Sky) by just a minute and 25 seconds, and declares himself happy with the way the race has gone so far. The Murcian rider, who is chasing his first ever podium finish in the race, put his team to work in the mountainous stage nine, and managed to drop Team Sky’s Richie Porte - who began the day in second overall himself.

"My overview on the Tour so far is really good,” Valverde told Movistar’s rest day press conference. “I'm in second place after a first week that we always were afraid of, plus the two Pyrenéen stages; really beautiful for the spectators and for us, as it offered such a big spectacle. It's true that Froome was isolated yesterday, but there was almost nothing but climbing and downhill on the route, and we all could see it's really difficult to drop him into the climbs. The pace was really on all day - pushing even harder was really complicated.

“We took one rival out of contention with Porte, and that was a good reward for us and an important thing for the remainder of the race.”

While Movistar did manage to knock Porte out of the general classification picture, the team was unable to shake off Froome, or any of Valverde’s other podium rivals like two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) or Joaquim “Purito” Rodríguez (Katusha). The Murcian is confident that later stages in the race will offer him opportunities to do so, however, when the Tour hits the mountains again.

"All rivals -Froome, Alberto, Purito- can have weaknesses,” Valverde said. “It will be a long race and will all come down to the four Alpine stages, all of them really hard. We have seen Sky doesn't have such a strong squad as they had last year, and should Froome become isolated again as he did yesterday, we can really hurt him.

“Still we found it difficult to form any sort of coalition against him,” Valverde conceded. “We saw him left on his own yesterday and it would have been a good day to profit, but you could see us working alone at the front. If we had found better cooperation, we could have made the difference. It will be hard to find such a situation again. There are still lots of mountains ahead and every single contender can have a bad day and lose everything - just as happened with Porte yesterday; he was the second strongest man in the race and... see what happened. The Tour is not won or lost until we get to Paris.”

Before the race reaches the Alps, however, the riders will have to negotiate tomorrow’s 33km time trial, between Avranches and the Mont-Saint-Michel. This is an area where Froome should take more time out of most of his rivals, but Valverde hopes that he will be able to keep the British rider in sight.

alejandro valverde"Looking at the Dauphiné TT, you can clearly say Froome is ahead of me, as well as the other main contenders,” Valverde admitted. “That's why I hope to lose as little time as possible against him and stay into the same times or even better than the other rivals. We're still fighting for the win, but we have to appreciate what we already have and try and conserve this place.

“On the other hand, you all have seen what Nairo [Quintana] is achieving,” he added. “He has already shown since this season he's capable winning WorldTour races and now he's showing he's the best rider uphill along with Froome. It's better to have him as a team-mate rather than as a rival, obviously. He looks to me as someone able to win one or even more Grand Tours in the future.”

Valverde won his home tour - the Vuelta a España - in 2009, and has finished on the podium three further times, including second last year. He has yet to finish better than sight in France, however, which he did in 2007, but feels ready to stand on the Paris podium this time.

"Putting the goal of winning a stage aside in exchange for the podium in Paris? I'd sign if they offered that to me,” he said. “I’ve already won stages but haven't made it onto the podium. I feel like I'm in the best moment of my career. Last year in the Tour, crashes didn't allow me to show it, but I proved to be mature enough in the Vuelta so I could earn a podium place in the Tour.

“There's still a long way to go, but I'm enjoying my race so far and I'm fully into contention,” he added. “I want to thank all team members - they did a great work from the first to the last one. I want to remember Iván Gutiérrez, too [who was forced to abandon during stage nine - ed]. He had a bad day yesterday and had to go back home, we'll miss him so much."

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