Alejandro Valverde will fly to China as a firm favourite for the Olympic road race title after taking a hard-fought victory in the Clásica San Sebastián on Saturday afternoon. Valverde, along with the rest of his Spanish Olympic team-mates, travelled to Madrid after the race and will fly to Paris on Sunday afternoon before travelling on to Beijing. They will then have less than five days to acclimatise before the Olympic road race on Saturday, August 9.
Besides Valverde, Spain's formidable line-up includes Tour de France green jersey Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Giro d'Italia champion Alberto Contador (Astana) and Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), who was drafted in as a late replacement for Caisse d'Epargne's Oscar Pereiro after his spectacular accident on stage 15 of the Tour de France.
After mixed fortunes at the Tour, where he won the first stage but failed once more to live up to his billing as an overall contender, Valverde appears to have emerged from the race in top condition. "I finished the Tour very motivated, I proved today that both physically and mentally I am feeling very good," he said after his victory on Saturday. "If we are lucky in Beijing I think we can do great things over there too.
"I believe that we are one of the most dangerous teams. Everybody knows what Alberto already won this year and what he is able to do in every kind of race. Carlos just won the Tour and Oscar and Samuel also achieved a great Tour. I believe that the five of us can challenge for a medal."
On a more personal level, Valverde counts German Stefan Schumacher and Italian Paolo Bettini as his most dangerous opponents. "I fear especially Stefan Schumacher if one considers the great condition he showed during the entire Tour. Paolo Bettini, the outgoing Olympic champion, must also be taken into account. And there surely will be many other riders who have prepared very well for this event."
The 248.5-kilometre course is expected to suit Valverde's characteristics, with seven hilly finishing circuits coming after a flat opening 80 kilometres. "I believe that after the Tour de France, I will have the necessary resistance for such a difficult race," said Valverde.
In addition to the difficult course, Valverde believes that Beijing's unique environmental factors could also play a part. "Dampness, pollution and the hot weather, which could cause dehydration, could strongly influence the course of the race. I believe that we will witness a very difficult Olympic Games."
Also see Cyclingnews' full coverage of the 28th Clásica San Sebastián.