Movistar dedicates team to Valverde in Vuelta a España, believes in his chances of final victory
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Monday, August 19, 2013

Movistar dedicates team to Valverde in Vuelta a España, believes in his chances of final victory

by VeloNation Press at 7:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
“We don't have any reasons why we shouldn't think about fighting for the overall win with Alejandro”

Alejandro ValverdeThe Movistar team has thrown its full weight behind Alejandro Valverde, last year’s runner-up, believing that he can head to the Vuelta a España confident in his chances of taking a second career victory in the race.

Valverde was one of the strongest riders in last year’s race and finished second overall to Saxo Tinkoff rider Alberto Contador. The duo were the only two able to fight with longtime race leader Joaquim Rodriguez, although the Katusha rider lost his chances with one bad day.

Contador will not participate in this year’s race and with Valverde having based his season around being good in the Grand Tour, his general manager Eusebio Unzue believes that he’s a big favourite.

“As we head into the start, we don't have any reasons why we shouldn't think about fighting for the overall win with Alejandro. We think he recovered well from the efforts in the Tour and is perfectly fit to achieve it,” he said.

“Looking for him to get a bit fresher for the start of the Vuelta, we already ruled him out of some early-season races, so he could stay strong in both the Tour and the Vuelta. That's why we're confident he'll keep up.”

Indeed, so confident Unzue is in his chances that he is willing to dedicate the entire team to him from the off.

“He will be our only GC leader, and will have a strong and balanced team by his side,” he explained. “Riders that already shone in the Giro, such as Beñat, Capecchi, Herrada or Lastras, who had time to recover and get back on the up; Iván and Imanol, who already rode with Alejandro in the Tour; plus, Javier Moreno and Szmyd, who did not take part in any Grand Tours yet this season. All of them are experienced and strong enough, in all terrain.”

As well as finishing as the runner-up, Valverde also picked up two stage wins one year ago, plus the points and combination classifications. He won the race outright four years ago, but later served a competitive ban due to his links to Operacion Puerto.

Valverde appears to have returned to his previous strength and was an overall contender in the Tour de France until he punctured at the worst possible time on the stage to Saint-Amand-Montrond. The race was already starting to break up in crosswinds and his rivals floored it, making it impossible for him to get back to the front.

He ultimately lost almost ten minutes to the winning break, and dropped eight minutes 45 seconds to eventual race winner Chris Froome (Sky).

Valverde went on to take eighth overall in the Tour. Without the mishap, a place on the final podium appears that it could have been possible. Instead, he rode for Nairo Quintana, the Movistar rider who took second overall in Paris.

Unzue wants to look forward rather than back and sees the 2013 Vuelta a España course as being suited to his rider. “The route of this year's Vuelta will be similar to last year’s, yet having two long, tough stages in the Pyrenees that will probably make the difference,” he said.

“Also Granada and the Angliru should play a significant role in the race - the other mountain-top finishes might not create such big gaps within the GC contenders.”

However he also knows that nothing is guaranteed, and that Valverde will have to beat some very important rivals if he is to win overall.

“Just like in previous editions, the field of race favourites is big and strong. Nibali might be the most solid rider coming into the start, with his great palmarès in all three Grand Tours recently,” he said.

“Still, I think Alejandro and Purito will be close enough to make things difficult for him. Also, riders like Samuel, Colombians Urán, Henao or Betancur, who we will be putting an eye on, or Kreuziger, who is having a great season so far.”

Movistar for Vuelta a España:

Alejandro Valverde, Eros Capecchi, Beñat Intxausti, José Herrada, Javi Moreno, Sylwester Szmyd, Imanol Erviti, Iván Gutiérrez and Pablo Lastras.

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