“He is not unbeatable by any means,” Valverde told Marca. “He is a rider that, when fit, is very strong and very hard to beat, but not impossible. A Tour is very long, and anyone can have a bad day and lose.”
Valverde will lead the Movistar team at the French race this year, despite speculation that his younger teammate Nairo Quintana will compete in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. The Spaniard said he had no part in the decision making process and that he would have welcomed Quintana into the Tour team.
“The one who decides is Eusebio (Unzué) and other team bosses,” said Valverde. “For my part, if Nairo also did the Tour, it would have been great. He and I get along very well and it would not have been a problem.”
Quintana has been nipping at the heels of Valverde, who has rarely found his status as Movistar team leader challenged. But when the Colombian finished second at the Tour de France in 2013, he announced himself as a future champion.
This year’s event will be Valverde’s seventh and his best result was fifth in 2005. Last season, the Spaniard was sitting in second place when lost almost 10 minutes on stage 13, due to an inopportune puncture. Valverde admits that Quintana’s ascendency and his own age will have an impact on his chances, in the future.
“I do not know if it is the last or if I will get more opportunities, but it is true that the years are already taking a toll,” he says. “In April I will turn 34, which will leave fewer opportunities, but I always do what I can.”
Valverde began his season this week at the Dubai Tour, in stead of his traditional start in Spain. The Spaniard said he is happy with what he saw at the inaugural edition of the race and with how his form is. “Bit by bit cycling races will globalize and races like these are the future. It is true they are a little green in organization but it is normal because there is no culture of cycling,” he said.
“I am very comfortable on my new bike and, before that, things were also going well. The sensations are good both on the flat, and up and down.”
Aside from a small attack on stage 3 the Spaniard remained mostly anonymous. He is keeping his wick dry for his first major goal of the season, which will be the classics. From there, he will ride the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España and the world championships.