Arguably the strongest rider in Saturday's Clásica San Sebastián, Alejandro Valverde was afforded little freedom in the finale - the Caisse d'Epargne leader eventually finishing third behind breakaway duo Leonardo Bertagnolli (Liquigas) and Juan Manuel Gárate (Quick.Step Innergetic).
Valverde insisted afterwards that his post Tour de France form is still strong, and with the Vuelta a España now less than a month away, the 27 year-old Murcian is clearly a strong favourite to capture the title snatched from his grasp by Alexandre Vinokourov last year.
"I felt very good," he said in a team statement. "In the [penultimate] climb of Gurutze, I was the first who bridged the gap with the three breakaways [Arrieta, Albasini and Van de Walle]. Then I immediately attacked, but the bunch reacted and gave me no possibility to go.
"When Bertagnolli and Garate broke, I tried to go for them but I received very little collaboration as nobody wanted to bring me in the sprint," he added.
Caisse d'Epargne directeur sportif Eusebio Unzúe recently told Cyclingnews that Valverde's condition would be evaluated after San Sebastián, and a final decision made regarding his participation in the Vuelta. But with Alexandre Vinokourov fired from his Astana team and refused any possibility of starting by race organisers, Valverde is unlikely to get a clearer shot at his home Grand Tour.
"I feel very good only a few days after the end of the Tour de France," said Valverde, who managed his first Tour finish after three attempts. "I am really motivated and hungry for races in the final part of the season."