One is the current ProTour leader. The other is the likely winner of this year's Tour de France. Together, they make up the double act that the Caisse d'Epargne - Illes Balears team hopes will lead to victory in the 2006 Vuelta a Espana. Shane Stokes found out what Alejandro Valverde, Oscar Pereiro and directeur sportif Eusebio Unzue had to say about their plans for the race.
When Valverde broke his collar-bone in the Tour, Pereiro stepped up to lead the team. Now that Valverde is back, the Caisse d'Epargne-IB Hydra has two heads. Looking at recent history in the three Grand Tours, it is clear that having two leaders in one squad is potentially dynamite. Not in the sense of blowing the opposition to smithereens, but more the sort of explosiveness that is directed inwards and can wrench teams apart.
In 1998 there was a simmering tension between the swashbuckling José Maria Jiminez, who dominated in the Vuelta's high mountains, and Banesto team-mate Abraham Olano. Olano went on to win overall but Jiminez' relentless uphill accelerations put him under serious pressure along the way.
Things were much uglier between Lampre team-mates Gilberto Simoni and Damiano Cunego in the 2004 Giro d'Italia, their clash echoing that which took place between Carrera's Stephen Roche and Roberto Visentini 17 years earlier. Cunego went on to win that Giro but things have never been the same between the two Italians. Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond famously fell out in the 1986 Tour, while more recently, T-Mobile's muddled tactics and chasing of Alexandre Vinokourov, one of the team leaders, made Lance Armstrong's victory in the 2004 Tour de France a little easier than it would otherwise have been. Somewhat logically, it also led to the Kazakhstani's move from the German squad.
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