Spaniard Alejandro Valverde finished ninth in Vuelta a España opening stage in Assen, Netherlands. He remains cautious for the race's next three stages in The Netherlands and Belgium, ahead of the race's transfer to Spain.
"They are very dangerous stages because of the very narrow streets and a lot of roundabouts. The wind can also break the bunch into several groups," said Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne). "Nobody will win the Vuelta in Holland but somebody could lose plenty of time."
He is 18 seconds back from race leader and winner of yesterday's 4.8-kilometre time trial, Fabian Cancellara. The first decisive stage for the overall classification should be the 30-kilometre time trial in Valencia on Saturday.
Valverde finished only 1:12 behind race overall Vuelta winner Alexander Vinokourov in 2006. Vinokourov of Team Astana finished in seventh place at 18 seconds back yesterday.
Valverde was unable to race the Tour de France this year and has put his hopes on the Vuelta. A two-year suspension in Italy for his involvement in the 2006 doping investigation, Operación Puerto, prohibited him from racing the Tour. The race passed through Italy on stage 16.
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