Alejandro Valverde and Colombian teammate Nairo Quintana used their time shortly after the completion of Volta a Catalunya to perform reconnaissance on two crucial Pyrenean stages of this year’s Tour de France. The Movistar duo rode the important sections of Stage 8 from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines and Stage 9 from Saint-Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
Valverde, who crashed out while leading the WorldTour race in Catalunya noted in particular the difficulty of Stage 8 with penultimate 15km climb of Pailhères set to make life stressful for those with hopes for the general classification. Valverde’s preparation for the upcoming Ardennes classics, where he is a former two-time winner at Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2006, 2008) and took out Flèche Wallonne in 2006, has not been hampered. He will return to racing at the one-day GP Miguel Indurain this weekend.
"I'm fully recovered from Catalunya's crash and I'm feeling well on the bike," he said on his team site.
"Though we have raced in the Pyrenees many times, there were climbs like the two ones on the first day, Val Louron and the Hourquette, that I didn't know, so it was good to know perfectly what we're going to tackle this July.
"Though everything will be left to the finale on stage eight, the road before Pailhères is also difficult and the group will be really stretched. The two climbs are difficult, but Pailhères seemed really difficult to me, to be honest. It will be the first mountain stage in this year's Tour de France and that makes it even more dangerous. The second one is not so long [8km at 8 perecent], but there isn't a single meter of rest. It is gonna be a fast, nervous one, and if you have a bad day there..."
Teammate Quintana won the queen stage to Vallter 2000 at Catalunya and narrowly missed the overall podium, finishing 11 seconds shy of third-place and rounded out the week in fourth-overall, 45-seconds behind Daniel Martin (Garmin Sharp). The 23-year-old is proving himself at the Spanish squad and is hoping to make his Tour debut this year.
"It was important to recon these stages to get used to what we'll find in July. I didn't know the climbs and I quite liked them. All of them have steep slopes and some, like Pailhères, are rather long - that suits me," said Quintana
"There's still a very long way to go, many months, but doing this recon makes me even more excited towards my Tour debut. That's the dream of every single cyclist and also mine."
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