Alejandro Valverde has shown himself as one of the firm favourites for the Tour de France after wrapping up a commanding victory at the 60th Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré on Sunday in Grenoble. The Spaniard kept a close eye on Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer throughout the mountain stages and will now seek to hold his form before the Tour de France start in Brest on July 5.
"This is the most important victory of my career so far," said Valverde. "Because of the prestige of this race but also because of the time of the year when it's held. This week allowed me to judge the condition of my adversaries. I came with a good condition myself after the training camp we had in the Alps."
His overall victory was backed up by two stage wins, including the 31 km individual time trial on stage three. But it was his third place in the prologue behind Levi Leipheimer and Thor Hushovd that gave him the motivation to perform so well in France.
"I did a phenomenal prologue," he said. "It gave the motivation for the next day and winning stage one gave me even more motivation. The time trial gave me the yellow jersey and I rode like Miguel Indurain did: after the time trial I controlled the situation."
Although the Tour de France has fewer time trial kilometres than most previous editions, Valverde was cautious about his chances, despite a dramatic improvement against the clock in recent years. "The Tour de France will be a different story because the time trial will be a very different one from the Dauphiné's," Valverde added.
"I'll take it day by day. Now I'll take a rest and try and maintain my condition towards the Tour de France. Winning the Dauphiné gives me the confidence for the Tour as well."
For full coverage from stage seven of the Dauphiné Libéré, click here.