"I will arrive to the Vuelta al País Vasco after placing third in the Critérium International, where I had hoped to win but when Jens Voigt attacked us, we let him take two minutes of advantage, and then it was impossible to reached him," Valverde expressed to diariovasco.com. The 26 year-old will start in the País Vasco this Monday, running from April 9 to 14.
The Caisse d'Epargne leader was satisfied with the role he played in the French race. "I finished second in the time trial stage, and that is a clear sign of my improvement in this speciality." In fact, Valverde won his first time trial stage in the Vuelta a Murcia early this year. "This season I have changed my handlebars, and also other important changes were already made."
In the Vuelta al País Vasco he will find many rivals and climbs, but "I want to win one stage at least."
Valverde does not have a clear favourite for the País Vasco. "Samuel Sánchez is building in his career, [Alberto] Contador went well at Castilla y León, and [Danilo] Di Luca went very well in the Coppi & Bartali. Also [Davide] Rebellin in Paris-Nice and Fränk Schleck in Critérium International." He sees his biggest threat from Saunier Duval, with its riders Koldo Gil and José Angel Gomez Marchante. "Saunier Duval is a very solid block."
He noted that the usual bad weather will toughen the race. "Rainy and cold weather will make the race harder."
The second stage, with 191 kilometres and eight climbs, "will be very complicated". Eusebio Unzue has suggested to his charge to go and preview the parcours. "I will feel comfortable on this terrain, because it is selective and it suits me."
In his four appearances of the Basque stage race he has won five stages, a number he hopes to increase in 2007.