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Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) rode a smart race and took third
Movistar rider looking to improve in time trials
The 33-year-old returned to the Tour last year after missing out on the race in 2010 and 2011 as he served suspension for his links to blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Valverde won the final Pyrenean stage to Peyragudes but made no impact in the fight for overall honours, finishing 20th in Paris.
“It will always be a dream and you always have to try but I’m not so young and I know how hard it is,” Valverde told AS. “The thing is, I think I’m better now. I’m not under any illusions but I will be there with more options than before and I think I’m better than ever.”
Valverde blamed the almost 100 kilometres of time trialling for his showing at last year’s Tour and was bullish about his chances of limiting his losses in the two short time trials this time around, in spite of conceding more than two minutes to Chris Froome (Sky) in a similar test at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
“Fortunately the time trials in the Tour aren’t as flat as the one at the Dauphiné. The second one is really very hard and I’ll be able to defend myself much better,” said Valverde, who will participate in his national time trial championships for the first time ahead of the Tour.
While Valverde agreed that Froome is the logical favourite for overall victory following his dominant display at the Dauphiné, he he was loathe to dismiss the chances of his fellow countryman Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff). “If Contador’s at 100 percent, he’s able to beat him,” he said.
Valverde will be flanked by Nairo Quintana in the Movistar team and while he welcomed the young Colombian talent’s presence in the line-up, he believes Froome’s chances have been improved by the absence of defending champion Bradley Wiggins from the Sky line-up.
“With Wiggins, maybe there would have been a bit of rivalry between the two of them within the team. But since he’s not there, they’ve been saved from that problem,” Valverde said.