Says Unibet should get a start in Paris-Nice
By Shane Stokes
2006 ProTour champion and Vuelta runner-up Alejandro Valverde has been working hard in recent weeks and says that he is looking forward to getting his season underway on Sunday on day one of the Challenge Mallorca races.
The Caisse d’Epargne rider is currently participating in the team training camp near Palma de Mallorca and had a good tune-up on Wednesday, riding for four hours with the squad and spending periods of time at racing pace. "I am feeling tranquil at the moment and I am looking forward to the start of the season," he told Cyclingnews afterwards.
"I think now I am 80 to 85 percent of my top form. This is normal for this time of year because at the moment things are tranquil and will be so until March, and then I will start training intensely to be good for the April Classics. Amstel will be my big goal there, as I was unlucky last year [he had hunger knock - ed.], and because I have already won Liège."
The 26 year-old had a very strong end of season, leading the Vuelta for much of the race and finally finishing just below Alexandre Vinokourov on the podium. He was then third in the World Road Race Championships and thanks to his consistency all year, was the clear winner of the ProTour title.
'El Imbatido' took one month completely off in order to recharge his batteries and then started swimming, going to the gym, doing some mountain biking and hill running. In mid-December he returned to the road bike and has been training well since then.
The Spaniard is planning to ease himself into the season rather than riding each of the five Challenge Mallorca stages. "I will do the first day, the third day and the fourth day. I don't expect to get a big result, my goal is to help my teammates that are very strong and who can do something in the overall classification."
Valverde was recently linked to talks with the German T-Mobile squad but, after a renegotiation of his contract, he finally opted to stay with Caisse d’Epargne for another four years. He is glad to be with the Franco-Spanish squad again in 2007. "I like this team and think there is a very good atmosphere this year.
"It is good with Pereiro on the team because both of us can share the responsibility in the Tour. There is less pressure that way so it is better for Oscar, and better for me. We are both very strong riders for that race and for the other contenders, it is more difficult to control when there is two rather than one of us.
"I’m getting to an age when you are at the best for the Grand Tours so I hope to show well. This year, I hope to have good luck and to finish the Tour, at least. A place in the top five would be good, then I will give 100 percent next year to try to win."
When asked, the ProTour champion gave his thoughts on the current stand-off between the UCI and the organisers of the three Grand Tours. "I think this is not good for cycling. It is a problem that needs to be solved as quickly as possible. I think we have enough problems in the sport without that happening," he stated. "I don’t know much about the details but I think if the ProTour is well planned and thought out, I don't think it is a bad thing for cycling. But there are a couple of things that do need to be changed.
"As regards Unibet, I think it is very important for them that they do Paris-Nice. It is a very important race. I don't think it is right that they are not allowed to enter, they should be able to ride."
A full interview with Alejandro Valverde will appear soon on Cyclingnews.