Yesterday's stage victory provided further confirmation of the talent of 25 year old Alejandro Valverde, the only rider able to resist the last-kilometre surge by Lance Armstrong. Winning the mountain-top finish of Courchevel is the best result yet by the Illes Baleares-Banesto rider, who has signposted himself as one of the brightest prospects in cycling with a host of impressive results.
This season Valverde took stages in Paris-Nice and the Tour de Pays Basque, adding to a palmares which already lists many victories. The Spaniard has also taken second in the world road race championships, as well as showing his stage-race promise with third and fourth overall in the Tour of Spain.
Lance Armstrong was suitably impressed by yesterday's demonstration to tip Valverde for a big future. "He's a difficult rider to classify, because he's also very fast and he's also very strong," he said. "A guy like him - and I'm not blowing smoke - could be the future of cycling, because he's a complete rider and he's always been good. Valverde was good from the first day he showed up and he's proven it here. The only thing he would have to work on for this race is his time trial, but I suspect he'll do it [in the future]."
"We will see how far I can go," said Valverde, playing down his chances for 2005. "I think that Armstrong is always too strong. I know my qualities, but also my weaknesses. I am not yet strong enough to win the Tour. Perhaps next year when Armstrong is no longer riding."