On the eve of the start of the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) held a press conference in Strasbourg. In the absence of a few big favourites, Valverde is now very much in the running for the overall, even if his name has tenuously been linked to the Operacion Puerto affair, but without sufficient evidence to cause his team to remove him from the race.
"First of all I want to do well in the general classification," he explained of his ambitions. "I don't know if I will finish fifth, fourth, third or second, but I want to do well. And of course I also would like to win a stage. I am convinced my second Tour will be a nice one and most of all a very important one."
Valverde described the parcours as "...a hard one, most of all the stages in the Pyrenees and in the Alps of course, but some other stages before reaching the mountains could be difficult ones too. I can't say that it really fits me because of the long time trials, but it is quite ok for me!"
In the time trials, Valverde admitted that he has improved. "In the Dauphiné Libéré, there was a 43 kilometre long time trial, a one that was really suited to the specialists, and I finished 9th, not bad at all. Of course I still have to work to be able to achieve better results, but it is no longer a problem like it was before."
Is there a stage that you really would like to win? "Any mountain stage, but of course my dream would be to win the one with the finish in Pla de Beret, because it is in Spain and for me it is special to win there. I also think that the course is particularly a good one for me."
Valverde rated his team as being strong. "Karpets, Pereiro, Arroyo and Zandio will be very helpful in the mountains. And according to the situation, maybe they will get a chance to do something by themselves. As for the other riders, they will be very important in the flat stages and they too will have the possibility to go for a stage win. I think we start with a really competitive team."
Before reaching the mountains, there are several difficult stages, such as the one in Valkenburg for example. "We will have to be very careful with such stages indeed, because they are harder than they maybe look. The one finishing in Holland is very similar to the Classics of the Ardennes and of course you know I like that! It would be nice to already win a stage there!"
Valverde was also asked to comment about the Puerto affair. "The Tour starts in a very strange way of course, with so many problems even before the start. I came here with a beautiful dream in my head, but of course with that whole thing, you don’t know what to think. Anyway we have to go on and wait and see what will happen in the next hours."
With the race be completely different without Jan Ullrich? "Of course it will! The T-Mobile team was supposed to control the race as being the biggest favourite, but now everything is different. I think that in a first time we will have to see what happens one day after the other. What I really hope is that the winner, even if I at the moment have no idea who it will be, will be considered as a real winner who deserved to win the Tour, and not as somebody who won just because the other ones were not there. This is very important for the future of cycling."
Is there a solution against doping? "I don’t know what the solution is. If I knew that I would already have told you. I really hope there is one. We need that. But cycling is bigger than doping and even if we are going through a bad moment, we have to go on and try to concentrate on the race."