By Antonio J. Salmerón
Alejandro Valverde has been recognised as one of the best sportsmen in his home region of Murcia by the local Sports Press Association at a ceremony in the region's capital on Monday evening. The Caisse d'Epargne rider was named alongside distance runners Bejamín Sanchez and Juan Manuel Molina plus tennis player Nicolás Almagro.
Accompanied by his wife Angela, the 26 year-old expressed his gratitude for the award and also surprise at his strong early season performances. "I did not hope to be in such good form already," said Valverde of his wins in the Vuelta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Vuelta a Murcia. "It fills me with great satisfaction and optimism for my next races."
After victories in both Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège last year, Valverde is once again aiming to reach peak form for the Ardennes classics. "I am interested in winning the Amstel Gold Race," he said. "In last year's edition I had no luck."
The Spaniard will race both the Critérium International and Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco as preparation.
Speaking about his joint leadership role at the 2007 Tour de France alongside Oscar Pereiro, Valverde said: "I do not mind that, it is good for me because it gives me less pressure. [Pereiro] has more experience than me, and in addition, he is the Tour winner."