Caisse d'Epargne rider Christophe Moreau has been left in shock following the recent world-wide suspension of team leader Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish outfit, which was counting on Valverde to spearhead them at both the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France, now have to compose different line-ups for the two events and re-think its strategies and objectives.
"It was a blow to the whole team," Moreau told Cyclingnews as he was preparing to travel to Evian-les-Bains, where the Dauphiné will get underway on Sunday. "It's difficult for all of us. We all feel a bit lost in how we'll have to re-evaluate the odds now. The points of reference have changed, and we'll have to function differently as a team."
The upcoming Dauphiné will be the first race where Caisse d'Epargne will race without its long-time leader.
"Obviously, we won't be there anymore to defend Alejandro's title from last year. Personally, I will try to take his place as team leader but it will be difficult to fill in for him. My function has changed from that of a helper to team leader, so I will try and take advantage of it as it of course opens up possibilities for me. As for the rest of the team, they will also get more individual freedom," the 39-year-old said, adding that Luis Leon Sanchez, the team's second captain, will not participate in the Dauphiné but take up the team leader position in the Tour de France.
Moreau has won the overall Dauphiné twice in his career (2001 and 2007), but the Frenchman knows that he could be his final season as a bike rider. Against the likes of Alberto Contador (Astana), he knows it will be an almost impossible task to take the GC honours for a third time.
"Of course I want to shine at the race," he said. "My aim is to go for a stage victory and as for the general classification. Why not? I have won this race twice so I know I've got it in me. In any case, I want to be part of those riders going for the overall win. I want to make up for Valverde missing on our team, and the opportunity is there."
Moreau admitted that his preparation for the event hasn't been the one of a team leader, and that he might be a little short of racing kilometres to fully live up to his objectives.
"Physically, I don't really know where I stand in comparison to the other contenders. I haven't raced since Romandie [where he finished 12th, helping teammate Valverde to overall victory - ed.]. I was also at a training camp in altitude, but then I was a little ill. I need to progress at the Dauphiné.”
The full Caisse d'Epargne line-up for the Dauphiné will be: Juan Jose Cobo Acebo, Imanol Erviti, Christophe Moreau, Mathieu Perget, Ruben Plaza Molina, Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez, Francisco Perez Sanchez and Luis Pasamontes.