After finishing the Tour de France strongly, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) lines up among the favourites for the Clásica San Sebastián and, as ever, he believes that the race will hinge on the double ascent of the Jaizkibel.
“It’s a race that I like and a course that suits me, but it’s the same for a lot of other riders,” Valverde told Diario Vasco. “I know the parcours perfectly and the two ascents of the Jaizkibel – the first time up the climb makes a selection and the second time around, there’s even more of a filtering process. For me the key is the Jaizkibel, no doubt about it.”
Valverde won the Clásica in 2008 and will be at the head of a solid Movistar squad that also includes Tour runner-up Nairo Quintana, and he is confident that the squad is capable of managing the race. “There will be more riders who want to win, but wherever we race, we always have responsibility for controlling things,” he said. “I expect a group of six or seven riders at the end, no more, but I don’t think anyone will win alone.”
Valverde finished eighth overall at the Tour but stood as the closest challenger to Chris Froome (Sky) until the end of the second week, when a broken wheel on the road to Saint-Amand-Montrond ultimately saw him lose almost ten minutes to his general classification rivals.
“I haven’t given a lot of thought to what happened there,” said Valverde. “The races come as they come. What is clear is that without the problem, we would have raced differently and maybe both Nairo and I could have been on the podium.”
The 33-year-old Valverde returned to racing at the beginning of last season after spending 18 months on the sidelines after he was belatedly suspended for his implication in the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation. Valverde will lead Movistar’s challenge at the Vuelta a España in three weeks’ time, and he is pleased with his condition in the wake of the Tour de France.
“I’m in good shape. I finished the Tour a bit tired, which is normal, but very well physically,” he said. “On a mental level, I feel very good. I didn’t finish fatigued.”
In spite of his consistency in recent months, Valverde is without a victory since winning the Ruta Del Sol in February and he knows he faces stiff opposition as he bids to break that duck on Saturday.
“I don’t know exactly who’s going to race but people like Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) should be dangerous,” he said. “In the Clásica, there should be several selections and until the end, you never know who you will be fighting it out with for the win, but at the front we usually see a majority of riders who have just come from the Tour.”