By Antonio Salmeron Ato
Many cycling hopes in Spain lie on Alejandro Valverde these days, who may be the most gifted rider to win the Tour de France since Miguel Indurain. But the Caisse d'Epargne cyclist himself plays it low at the moment, preferring to let the first great races of the season be raced before talking about his further objectives.
The French Grand Tour is always present in the Spaniard's thoughts, but without being an obsession. He has also let himself be seduced by the Spring Classics, where he has already tasted victories in the past. Valverde has been targeting the month of April for a first peak of form. "The Challenge a Mallorca was hard for me," he told Cyclingnews about his restrained preparation and his eagerness to win. "I hope to be polishing my form in the Vuelta a Valencia, and will help my teammate Luis Leon Sanchez to reach the victory. Until now, I used to arrive tired at the great races, but I won't let it happen again."
In order to peak twice, or even three times during the season, Valverde needs to have a perfectly laid-out schedule throughout the year. "My training plan has been adapted according to my objectives," he explained. "There is sufficient time between the block of classics races and the Tour, for example, so there is no problem for me. I have already won two important Classics, but now I would like to add Amstel Gold Race to my palmarès."
As for his objectives at the Tour de France, the 27 year-old humbly prefers to play his chances down. "The Tour does not obsess me," he continued. "I'm very young and I still have to finish it before anything else [Valverde had to abandon twice because of injuries - ed.]. Oscar Pereiro already knows what it represents to win it (sic), so I must learn of him and be more close to him. That doesn't mean that I don't want to assume my responsibilities and the pressure put on me - neither scare me - but that is what corresponds to Pereiro. I'm not either going to deny that, for my future in the Tour, it is important to finish ahead of him.
"I know the Tour route, and I don't mind that the Alps will be before the Pyrenees. It doesn't matter to me. That's where the Tour will be decided, although there also are two long time trial stages."
After the highlight of the season, there's always the Vuelta for Valverde to come home to. But the Spaniard has said that he might not include it in his program this season - more out of superstition than anything else: "It brings me bad luck to say that I will race in the Vuelta if I do not finish the Tour satisfactorily," he added.
As for another one of his dreams, which he has missed out on by a hair several times now, Valverde again points at one of his colleagues to be more suited for the job than himself. "Neither Samuel Sanchez nor myself should be the national team leader if Oscar Freire can finally race again," he said. "We have to help him get the victory."