By Antonio J. Salmerón
The high stakes negotiations between 2006 UCI ProTour winner Alejandro Valverde and his Caisse d'Epargne team are one step closer to resolution. It appears that Valverde will not be leaving his Spanish squad, despite the rumours that circulated earlier this week. Valverde's manager, Francisco Sánchez, told Cyclingnews today that, "Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears has accepted the conditions proposed by Valverde last Monday in Murcia".
Valverde's current contract with the team runs through the end of 2007, but team manager Eusebio Unzúe was in Murcia this week to negotiate an extension to his contract. The pressure, whether real or imagined, from the more financially expansive T-mobile team had Unzúe and team manager José Miguel Echavarri up against a wall - either sign their star rider to more years at a higher salary and stretch their monetary resources, or let him go and give away their highest hope for a grand tour win.
It appears that Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears chose the former option, and are closer to having Valverde sign on to a multi-year deal, adding another three years to his current contract. "The Spanish rider will take part next Tuesday in París in the Caisse d'Epargné-Illes Balears official presentation, and after that, we will negotiate some important aspects of the renewed contract, that will be for the next four seasons: More that nine million euros in total", Sánchez explained to Cyclingnews. This sum was sufficient to sway Valverde to stay with his current team, keeping him in the familiar surroundings of his native country.
The signing of Valverde could hold big risks for the Spanish team, since the Spanish media continue to report on a suspected link between the rider the Operación Puerto investigation despite the fact that the Guardia Civil, the Superior Council of Deportes and the Real Spanish Federation of Cycling have denied that Valverde has been implicated.