By Hernan Alvarez
Spain's Alejandro Valverde had to shoulder a lot of responsibility during the World's men's race in Madrid. Replacing compatriot and world champion Oscar Freire in a world championships on home soil is not an easy task for anyone. But Valverde responded extremely well, taking his second World's silver medal at just 25 years of age.
Valverde's condition for the race was in some doubt as he had hardly competed since winning stage 10 of the Tour de France in Courchevel during July. Initially, Miguel Martin Perdiguero was the first option as leader for the Spaniards in Sunday's race because Valverde was far from his peak in during August. But in September, Illes Balears team director Eusebio Unzue and national selector Paco Antequera thought it would be much better for him to do a special training programme for the World's than to race in the Tour of Poland. And their strategy proved to be the right one, as Alejandro joined Tom Boonen and Anthony Geslin on the podium.
The rider from Murcia is one of the candidates to replace Lance Armstrong as the 'King of the Tour de France', along with Ivan Basso, and showed on Sunday that he is capable of attacking and sprinting against the best sprinters. He has proven even further the fact many have known for a while - that he's an extremely versatile rider with the potential to become a real superstar very soon.
Sunday's press conference saw Valverde speak about his plans for the future before talking about the racing itself, saying, "I haven't raced since the Tour [de France]. The idea was to do the World's and then do the three classics that are left [in the season calendar]. There are two [Zurich and Lombardy] that I think are pretty hard, and now in my condition I can try to do them the best I can."
Asked if the special training he did without the rigours of competition was better than racing, Valverde replied, "I don't know; when you compete you get into very good condition, but with training you can do what you want. You can train for five, six, seven hours; with intensity, without intensity, behind a motorcycle, behind a car. You don't have a limited time. I think you can train very well at home."
Finally, he commented on the race itself, saying, "My preparation had nothing to do with the sprint I did, but Boonen is so very fast and very strong for this kind of race. I started the sprint very early, he caught me and he passed me pretty easily."