“Confidence” cost Valverde Flèche Wallonne podium spot
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

“Confidence” cost Valverde Flèche Wallonne podium spot

by Ben Atkins at 7:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Flèche Wallonne
 

alejandro valverdeCaisse d’Epargne captain Alejandro Valverde’s stellar season took a downward turn in yesterday’s Flèche Wallonne with a disappointing eighth place. The World number one finished in a small cluster of riders 11 seconds behind winner Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Winner of the race in 2006, and second in 2007, Valverde generally finds that the Ardennes races suit his characteristics, but couldn’t explain his performance in yesterday’s race.

“I was not feeling bad but I was not very well”, said the Murcian after the finish. “I had rather strange feelings at the beginning of the race. I have no explanation but I don’t believe it is because of our long travel by car because I had recovered pretty well.”

Due to the ban placed on most European flights caused by the Icelandic volcano Valverde, and many other Spanish based riders, were forced to travel up to Belgium over land. The same was true for second and third placed Spaniards Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alberto Contador (Astana), and winner Evans had been forced to do similar from his home in northern Italy.

Despite his initial strange feelings Valverde recovered during the race and feels that it was not a physical problem that cost him at the end. “I was feeling better and better with the passing of hours,” he explained. “In the final climb I was completely better even if not good enough to win the race. I stared coming closer and closer and I believe that had I been more confident I could take the third place on the podium.”

So far in 2010 Valverde has won February’s Tour of the Mediterranean, finished second in Paris-Nice in March and won two stages and the points classification in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country) earlier this month. Not having raced since Pais Vasco may have taken a little sharpness out of his legs he feels. He had been due to take part in last weekend’s Amstel Gold Race but was unable to travel to the Netherlands on time due to the ban on flights.

“For sure I did not have the right rhythm in the legs today, for sure because I did not take part in the Amstel Gold Race,” he said. “But things are like that and now I have to focus on Liège-Bastogne-Liège where I hope to be in front and give the best of myself on roads I like so much.”

In truth Valverde is better suited to the longer Liège-Bastogne-Liège race, where he has won twice – in 2006 and 2008 – and second once – in 2007. With the tough Flèche Wallonne in his legs Valverde could well recapture his Pais Vasco form, which would make him one of the men to beat on Sunday.

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