It's been another year of firsts so far in 2006 for Caisse d'Epargne-Iles Balears rider Alejandro Valverde, the highlight being wins in both La Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége. With wins at the Tour de Romandie and Vuelta al Pais Vasco to his credit, his next challenge is the Tour de France. Cyclingnews' European Editor, Tim Maloney, grabbed a few minutes with 'the green bullet' after his spring triumphs.
Valverde, who turned 26 at the end of April, isn't a stranger to success at the highest level, having won two stages and third overall at the 2003 Vuelta a España and taking a world championships silver medal that same year in Hamilton, Canada. He secured a spectacular stage 10 win ahead of Lance Armstrong before abandoning the 2005 Tour de France, and went on to finish his season with another world's silver medal on home turf in Madrid, Spain.
In 2006, Valverde has been on fire, with a stage win and second overall in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, a superb spring double with victory in La Flèche Wallonne and Liége-Bastogne-Liége, both of which catapulted him into the lead of the Pro Tour standings. He then won stage 4 of the Tour de Romandie and took third overall before completing a successful campaign at the 58th edition of Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, where he was second on Stage 6 from Briançon to La Toussuire, a respectable ninth in the Stage 3 ITT, all of which helped him finish a solid seventh on GC.
With three weeks to go before the Tour de France, the modest yet confident Spaniard is clearly ready for the challenge of being a contender in la Grande Boucle.
Cyclingnews: With all your success this year, do you still like to talk to the media?
Alejandro Valverde: Sure, I like to, but there is a lot of media after me now...one after the other. So it's kind of tough to deal with when there's always more.
CN: Your wins in Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April - has it sunk in what you achieved?
AV: Oh, I realise that it was very important and I had already had a good experience last year at both races, so I knew before that I really liked these races and wanted to do well.
Click here to read the full interview.