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Caisse d'Epargne: Valverde's Tour hopes finished

Tour de France pre-race favourite Alejandro Valverde's chances of winning the event are over, according to Caisse d'Epargne manager Eusebio Unzue. The Spanish rider failed to match the pace of general classification rivals Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) on yesterday's Stage 10.

"For the podium, it's finished," Unzue told Reuters. "It was a bad day, that's all.

"But I don't think Alejandro was less good than on the Dauphine," he added.

Valverde's lackluster performance against Team CSC's efforts to ravage the peloton on Stage 10's climbs left the rider sitting in 14th overall, nearly five minutes behind Evans.

"It is obvious that this was not our best day, but it was not such a bad one," said Valverde. "What happened is that some riders and teams, CSC and Saunier, were very, very strong...I was more than two minutes late at the foot of Hautacam which means that it was, of course, impossible to come back.

While Valverde acknowledged the Stage 10 result was a massive setback and the team would focus on stage wins from now on, he refused to discount himself as an overall contender.

"Now we will analyse the situation," he said. "It's true that there are many stages left before we reach Paris, but I think that from now on, we will have to concentrate on stage wins rather than on the general classification."

Despite the disappointment of yesterday's stage, Caisse d'Epargne's efforts so far haven't gone unrewarded. Both Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez have claimed stage victories for the Spanish squad.

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