Emerging from the opening two days at this year’s Tour de France has left Alejandro Valverde relieved, ahead of one final test around the narrow and seemingly nervous island of Corsica. The Movistar leader and his squad has been more or less lucky to escape the opening day’s chaos with Rui Costa the only rider to sustain a light injury to his right-hand wrist - when many teams have been left bandaged and bruised after just two days of the 100th edition.
A hot day under the Corsica sun on Stage 2 was thought to potentially provide another opportunity for the fast men but it was more difficult that initially expected. Valverde was amongst the front-runners on the final Category 4 ascent and said that while the day took its toll on the bunch, he was pleased to make it through another "feared" stage.
"I'm happy because we made it through another day. It was the first one in proper heat and that's an important marker because you get more tired towards the finish. We saved the day and did not lose time but the truth is that it was quite a demanding stage. It was the first day with mountains and that always feels a little weird but the feelings are still good," said Valverde on his team site.
Valverde currently lies in 31st-place, a single second behind the new race leader and Stage 2 winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack Leopard) but with the third and final stage around Corsica offering a more difficult parcour, the Spaniard is all too aware that it will be important to stay on point.
"We have made it through two of the three days [on Corsica] that we feared and we will have to see if tomorrow continues like this. It was a complicated stage today and tomorrow will be even greater because it will be very nervous. I expect it to pass smoothly thanks to my team that continues to be great. We've been extremely vigilant and that gives me peace of mind," he added.
While Valverde’s general classification ambitions didn’t play out exactly how he would have liked in last year’s Tour - mainly in part to spending two years away from competition due to his involvement with the blood-doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes - he did manage to finish inside the top-20 and win a mountain stage.
With a full season of racing under his belt the 33-year-old is at the Grand Boucle with greater ambitions. This time he’s on the hunt for the podium and after taking second on GC at the 2012 edition of the Vuelta, along with winning three stages (two individual and the TTT) and the points classification, the Movistar captain could surprise some of his fellow GC contenders over the coming weeks.