By Gregor Brown
Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears riders Oscar Pereiro and Alejandro Valverde are preparing for the 2007 season by honing-in their time trial positions. Both Spaniards know the importance of time trialing in grand tour races; Pereiro bravely fought to keep his yellow jersey in the 2006 Tour de France during the final individual test on the penultimate day and Valverde used his abilities to hold on to second in the 2006 Vuelta a España.
In the past days, on the Miguel Indurain Velodrome in Tafalla (near Pamplona, Spain), the two riders were working with positioning guru, Italian Alessandro Mariano, and technicians from the team's bike supplier, Pinarello. Valverde, 26, travelled to Italy last winter to work with Mariano on his positioning and in the past year he has steadily improved.
"Its work, but it is also useful for raising psychological levels," explained the 2006 ProTour champion to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Up until the end of last year I was afraid of time trialing. I know that we are working very well and now I feel strong also in these [TT] races."
Instead of a wind tunnel, Mariano is using the velodrome combined with electromyography (EMG), to verify muscle work, and a "spinal mouse," an instrument that measures the vertebras' shape and mobility. This work, combined with improvements from Pinarello technicians, could help the Spaniards hold their own in the time trials and go on to win the 2007 Tour overall, which this year includes 117 TT kilometres.
"Mariano said to me that with respect to the ideal theoretical position I am at 80%," confirmed Pereiro to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I do not have the aptitude of my teammate [Iván] Gutiérrez, who is a specialist, but for a rider of stage races I have set myself up very well." Pereiro, 29 years-old, has moved his saddle back by 5mm and has lowered his handlebar rests by 2mm.
His honourable ride in the Tour's final time trial gave him second overall, which could result in an overall win if American Floyd Landis is disqualified for his positive testosterone test. "I am not able to do more. I would like that this story is finally resolved. It possibly appears to you that the world's most important race, with the biggest organization, still does not have a certain winner?" Pereiro remarked.
"Besides me, the team is damned because it is not able to promote a victory image. We would like this respect."