Movistar co-leaders Alejandro Valverde and Enric Mas have yet to make an impact on this year’s Tour de France general classification battle, but the two Spaniards insisted in Monday’s first rest day press conference that they are far from throwing in the towel just yet.
Mas is currently lying 12th overall, with Valverde a more distant 17th at 3:43 off the pace. After failing to impact strongly in the first week of the Tour, Mas said that his aim is to “get into the action right up until the last day and I’d like to do better than a top 10 [on GC]. There are some riders who are stronger than us, but we’ll play our cards the best we can.”
Third in the 2015 Tour de France and a former race leader back in 2008 when he won the opening stage to Plumelec, Valverde seemed more inclined to hunt for stage wins in this year’s race. However, he said that objective hinged on seeing “how Enric is going first,” for whom he has already played a support role.
Neither rider, though, is shining exceptionally brightly in this year’s first Grand Tour of the season, nor is Movistar with Carlos Verona’s third place in the first Pyrenean stage the best result so far for a team that once dominated the Tour at its pleasure.
Valverde, the oldest rider in the Tour this year, hinted that racing into another decade was feeling increasingly like a potential factor in his performance, even if retiring was not still something he anticipated.
“Every day I feel a bit better in the race, but I am 40, not a kid anymore, and sooner or later the moment comes when you’re not at 100 per cent,” he recognised on Monday.
“When I have to retire, I will. I’m not worried about that. I want to get as far as Tokyo [Olympic Games] in 2021, but if I don’t feel up to it, then I won’t go.”
Returning to the present, Valverde highlighted Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) as the only rider currently able to give Jumbo-Visma a real challenge in the GC battle, ahead of his former teammates Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren), or indeed defending champion Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers).
As for their options in the stage wins, “Everybody is free to say what they want and criticise what they want but we’re not going slowly,” he said. “There was one day without any breaks, that’s true. But if there aren’t any more attacks, it’s because we can’t get away and burning yourself out makes no sense.”
Hanging over all of this is the pandemic and, Valverde pulled no punches as to the possible effects of the COVID-19 lockdown and delay on the season.
“It’s the strangest race of my career,” he said, which for a rider who turned pro in 2002 is quite a statement.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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