By Antonio J. Salmerón
The Spaniard Caisse d'Epargne, Oscar Pereiro, was tipped by manager Eusebio Unzúe to share leadership in the 2008 Tour de France with Alejandro Valverde after being named winner of the 2006 Tour following the failure of Floyd Landis' appeal of his doping positive in that Tour. Pereiro came upon this Tour victory after being part of a long breakaway which gained nearly 30 minutes on the peloton. He fought hard to stay in contact in the high mountains that year, and knows that in order to live up to the expectations of co-leadership in the Grand Boucle next year, he will have to have luck and maybe slip off the front to gain time before the high mountains.
In statements to Cyclingnews.com, Oscar Pereiro pointed toward the winner of the last edition, his countryman Alberto Contador, to be a strong favourite for 2008. "The balance of the Tour's route favours climbers like him, and he is also supported by a great team, many of them who have raced for the defunct Discovery Channel and now for the new Astana."
The 30 year-old rider though that the battle to be in the the top ten overall will take place in the Alps. "When we will come to the penultimate stage [time trial], the podium will be decided, and it will only serve to showcase the specialists, as happened in the last edition."
Pereiro did not forget about his team-mate Alejandro Valverde. "He has demonstrated that he is qualified to be among the best, as evidenced by having finished sixth, despite the bad time trial stage in Albi. Although it is true that the next Tour is better for pure climbers like Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans, among others, but we must bear in mind that the Tour is won day by day, and can be lost in any moment."
Pereiro has not yet decided the schedule he will follow during 2008, having renewed his commitment to the Caisse d'Epargne team for two more years. "It could be very similar to 2007. The only thing that seems clear is the Tour. The Vuelta? Why not; I like it. It was a pity that I was not able to finish the last edition because of unexpected health problems." The Tour winner considered as "relatively positive" his performance in 2007.