Vuelta title defence not yet decided for Caisse leader
Alejandro Valverde will focus on the Tour de France in 2010 but has not yet decided on whether he will defend his victory in the Vuelta a España.
Speaking at the Criterium Ciudad de Jaén over the weekend, the Caisse d'Epargne rider said that, "Whenever I face a test, I do so with the maximum effort, and the Tour de France is a race with great international prestige. In principle I hope to challenge," he told Spanish news agency EFE.
As for the Vuelta, his participation there will depend on, "how the season develops."
The main barrier to riding the Tour in 2010 may be the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Earlier this year the Spaniard was given a two-year suspension by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). The ban, based on his alleged connection to Operacion Puerto, applies only to races in Italy. He has appealed the ban to the CAS, with the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-doping Agency also filing a separate case which asks that the ban be extended worldwide.
Valverde's case with the CAS was scheduled for November 16, but it was delayed until an unspecified date later this year, with a final decision not expected until sometime in 2010.
Valverde first rode the Tour in 2005, when he joined Caisse d'Epargne. He won a stage, out-sprinting Lance Armstrong at the mountaintop finish in in Courcheval. He was in fifth place overall and leading the best young rider ranking when a knee injury forced him out during stage 13.
He entered the 2006 Tour as a favourite however he crashed in the third stage and had to withdraw with a broken collarbone.
Valverde made it through the 2007 Tour without injury. Again considered a favourite, he was in second place overall going into the 13th stage time trial, where he put in a disastrous performance. He plummeted to 11th, 5:48 down. Valverde was able to move back up to sixth place and finish the Tour for the first time, but he was still far below expectations.
The 2008 Tour was his strongest ever, and he started it off by winning the opening stage. However, he was unable to keep up in the Pyrenees and gave up all hopes of a podium place on the climb up the Tourmalet, where he lost nearly six minutes. He finished ninth overall.
Valverde was unable to ride the 2009 Tour, as it dipped into Italy. He now hopes to overcome the threats of a suspension, historically poor Tour form and injuries to take his first Tour de France title.
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