Valverde bittersweet

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears)

Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) (Image credit: Sirotti)

By Antonio J. Salmerón

Alejandro Valverde won on La Pandera in 2003, but today, the Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leader lost almost all of his chances of gaining the 2006 Vuelta. The steep climb was decisive in confirming Vinokourov's position at the top of the general classification.

"I congratulate Vinokourov, because he has practically won this Vuelta, but when you did as well as possible, nobody can demand any more of you," said Valverde at the end of the 18th stage. His face could not hide the disappointment, but even so, Valverde saw the positive side of things.

"I feel proud of everything I've done during this Vuelta, of the maillot oro that I managed to wear, which I gave up to an extraordinary opposition, and mainly of the affection that people show me wherever I go, without forgetting all those who follow me."

The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leader again showed his gratitude to his teammates. "They have done an commendable work, and I do not have anything to reproach them for."

After a season of bittersweet moments, Valverde - who is still the ProTour leader - believes it has been a good one, and could finish with a medal in the world championships. "In spite of losing the Vuelta, I am really very happy with all successes gained during this season, because I have demonstrated that I am capable of fighting in the Vuelta as well as winning great classic races. Now, the World Championships are waiting for me, so that everything is still possible."

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