By Antonio J. Salmerón
The final kilometres of the men's world championship road race in Salzburg last Sunday was not flattering for the Spanish national team's main aim, which was to win the rainbow jersey. Alejandro Valverde finished third behind Paolo Bettini and Erik Zabel in what ended up being a four man sprint.
"Perhaps a tougher parcours could have eliminated all the sprinters that managed to get to the end in good enough condition to dispute the medals," Valverde told Cyclingnews at his official reception in Murcia.
That's not discounting the incredible work of Valverde's teammate Samuel Sanchez, who towed the three sprinters away from the peloton in the last 500 metres. "Samuel was really brilliant," said Valverde. "He told me to use a 54 tooth chainring and a 12 tooth cog, but I finally decided on an 11 tooth cog. It was my fault, because I could not turn it."
A few days later, Valverde said, "The bronze medal is not bad, although I know that we were close to the gold, which will come soon."
At the end of the Vuelta, where he finished second, Valverde was tired, and that likely affected him at the World's. He will race again this season, but not just yet. "I don't believe that I'll race again until the Giro of Lombardia, because I am really tired psychologically after a very intensive season for me."
Valverde is the current ProTour leader with 285 points, whereas his nearest rival is Cadel Evans (Davitamon-Lotto) on 162, and Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) on 156.
Valverde's Caisse d'Epargne teammates will be in action this weekend at the Championship of Zurich, with Vladimir Efimkin, Iván Gutiérrez, Pablo Lastras, Nicolas Portal, Mikel Pradera, Fran Pérez, Vicente Reynes and Joaquím Rodríguez all part of the line up, directed by José Luis Jaimerena.