An interview with Alejandro Valverde, April 19, 2006
In claiming his first major classic today, Alejandro Valverde Belmonte once again demonstrated his incredible versatility on two wheels. The question now being asked is: 'Does he also have the capability to challenge for victory at the Tour de France?' Brecht Decaluwé found out his plans at the post-race press conference.
Cyclingnews: First of all, congratulations with your victory! This race looks like it's made for a rider like you.
Alejandro Valverde: It's only the second time I've competed at this race. The 'Mur' pleased me [last year] and I wanted to come back here. Yesterday, we did a reconnaissance ride with the team and I liked it even more!
CN: In those last kilometres, we saw attacks from Steegmans and Etxebarria. How did you interpret the finale?
AV: My main focus was to win this race, nothing else, but there were a lot of other guys aiming for the same goal. It was a very fast race, but I had very good legs. I tried to wait as long as possible, as the CSC train constantly brought everybody back. When Etxebarria attacked, I just followed him. When I saw that Sanchez and Kroon were coming back on us, I accelerated at my maximum.
CN: Last summer, you won a mountains stage in the Tour de France; is today's victory as beautiful as that one?
AV: They both have a great value to me. Though it's a completely different sensation. Winning in the Tour de France, beating guys like Armstrong, Basso and Ullrich is great, and I think it was a bigger victory than this one.
CN: Last year, you were unable to get yourself into a good position at the 'Mur'. Are we looking at a different Valverde?
AV: The program of this year is very different compared to last year. Now, I'm focused on the Ardennes Classics and the Tour de France. I wanted to win one of the three Ardennes Classics which I succeeded in doing, so I'm happy. Last year, I was already at 100 percent in the early season at Mallorca. So at the Classics, I was already past my best form. We will have to see if I'm able to reach my best form again at the Tour de France, but first there's another important race on Sunday.
CN: We think that you're able to win a Grand Tour one day, but now it appears that you're also a man for the Classics. Did you find that out yourself?
AV: My team manager was convinced that I could do it. Last year, I already finished second at the world championships in Madrid. Now I know that he's right; I should combine both: Classics and a Grand Tour.
CN: If you can win in the Flèche Wallonne, you can perform well in Liège as well...
AV: After this victory, I'm even more motivated than I was before this win. Still, we'll have to see how the legs are feeling if I can make it into the finale.
CN: In last year's Tour de France you had to abandon with some knee problems; what about now?
AV: Those problems are solved. I did some special training with a physio to make my muscles stronger around my knees. Normally, I will not suffer that soreness again.
CN: After Sunday's race in Liège, how will you get ready for the Tour de France?
AV: I'll also race in the Tour of Romandie and then I'll be out of competition until the Dauphiné. After that stage race, I'm only doing the national championships.