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Caisse d'Epargne anticipates nervous Vuelta

The last time many of the Vuelta people saw Valverde, he was clad in the Maillot Oro.

The last time many of the Vuelta people saw Valverde, he was clad in the Maillot Oro. (Image credit: Shane Stokes)

Alfonso Galilea, one of the directeurs sportifs who helped Alejandro Valverde towards victory in this year’s Vuelta a España, has said that he expects the 2010 edition to be a very difficult race.

“This Vuelta is very, very hard,” he told Cyclingnews immediately after Wednesday’s presentation. “There are six stages with summit finishes, and there a lot of new climbs that we don’t know and have to go to see. I think it is very, very tough, and it is very nervous. Almost every day there are some little climbs before the finish line; for those in front of the TV, it is very good, but for the riders, it is not so nice.”

Asked whether or not he felt that the course is tougher than the one the riders faced in 2009, he said that it is not only the parcours that sets the difficulty. “It depends. Normally they say that a Tour is not hard because of the stages, but because of the riders. So it depends on the speed that the riders will go in this race.”

Like Alberto Contador and Samuel Sanchez, the two other big names who were guests at Wednesday’s presentation, Valverde has not made a firm commitment to take part in the Spanish Tour. Part of the reason for that is because it is so late in the year, and also because he has a major target earlier in the summer. However, all going to plan, he will be there.

“We have yet to decide the calendar but the idea is to participate in the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España,” said Galilea, confirming that the intention to defend the title. “We hope that next year he will be in good shape for the race, as he was this year.

“If he is in good condition, the race should be fine for him. It won’t be easy, of course, but he will go there being one of the riders who can be on the podium of the Vuelta. He won the race this year, so he has to be one of the lead contenders for the Vuelta."

Building on success

Valverde has long been regarded as one of the most talented riders in cycling, but it was not until last September when he won his first Grand Tour. He was chasing that goal for many seasons and, after years of trying, things finally fell into place. He lifted the final trophy in Madrid and, with it, his self belief.

“That helped his confidence a lot,” Galilea confirmed. “I think that this is one of the things that Alejandro needed, to win the Vuelta a España. Now he knows that he can be in very good shape for three weeks, and that he can actually win a Grand Tour. For his mentality, his idea for the future, it is really, really important that he won this year’s Vuelta.”

That pressure has now dissipated but he’s got another monkey on his back; in January and again in March, he will face appeals with CAS in relation to Operación Puerto. Galilea insisted that he had nothing to fear, and faults the media for prolonging the story.

“He is not nervous,” he said. “As he has stated all the years, he has said that he is right. Only the journalists say the other things. He is very relaxed and for the moment, there is no reason to be nervous.”

Valverde is the undisputed leader of the team but there’s still a chance that he’ll have to share that position with another top Spanish rider at some point in the future. Caisse d’Epargne was one of the teams that was chasing Alberto Contador and it would still like to see that come to pass.

“Alberto said that he wanted to leave Astana this year, but it is clear that he has a contract that he had to respect,” Galilea confirmed. “Next year he will be free to negotiate a contract with Astana or with other teams. Of course, we would be delighted to have the possibility to talk with him. But it is sure that the rest of the teams will think the same, so we have to watch and see.”