By Antonio J. Salmerón
In 2009, Caisse d'Epargne's ProTour squad will continue to be led by Oscar Pereiro, Xabier Zandio, David Arroyo, García Acosta, David López and Luis León Sánchez, who will also support the team's star rider Alejandro Valverde. Team Director Eusebio Unzúe predicted plenty more racing for Valverde, whom he described as "a rider unable to compete at a high level without a lot of competition".
Look for Valverde at the three Ardennes classics: Amstel Gold, La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège and beyond. "Valverde is a rider of sufficient quality to make the Tour de France podium," said a confident Unzúe.
The director called 2008 a "very satisfactory" season for the team, which, along with Valverde, took the top spot in the UCI ProTour team and individual rankings. The team enjoyed victories in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and spent time in the lead at races like Dauphiné Libéré, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España.
Those performances more than satisfied title sponsor Caisse d'Epargne, which promised to continue its sponsorship despite tough economic times that have shaken the company.
The team will sit out the usual early season races like Challenge de Mallorca and Vuelta a Murcia, but will race the Classics in April and the Volta a Catalunya in May. Valverde has also pledged his presence at both the 2009 Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. The later should be well suited to him with plenty of climbing in the mountains and limited time trialing.