Valverde looking to get back on track

Alejandro Valverde was one of the big losers in Saturday’s Liège prologue of the Tour de France, but his Movistar Team boss Eusebio Unzue expects his team leader will bounce back with a strong performance on the opening road stage into Seraing.

“Alejandro didn’t do a good prologue, that’s obvious,” Unzue told Cyclingnews at the stage one start in central Liège. “But at the same time he was only six or seven seconds below what would have been considered a normal result. So you have to put things into context and give them the importance they deserve.”

Unzue said that Valverde wasn’t too disappointed after the prologue, in which he finished 116th and lost 28 seconds on Tour favourite Bradley Wiggins. “Yesterday was a setback but without any great importance in the bigger scheme of things. From today onwards, he will be on terrain that suits him and it’s a first opportunity for him to get himself involved in the action.

“Today he will be hoping to take advantage of the opportunity that this first uphill finish gives him, just as Gilbert, Simon, Sagan and even Evans will. There’s going to be quite a few riders who fancy their chances today. We will be working to make sure that he’s got the chance to take advantage of this opportunity. He will have Imanol [Erviti] and [José Joaquín] Rojas with him trying to make sure that he’s in the right position.”

Valverde’s compatriot Samuel Sánchez was another of the big losers in the prologue, finishing 40 seconds down on winner Fabian Cancellara in 144th place. Euskaltel’s management said they were not too surprised by the amount of time their leader lost, but insisted that he had fully recovered from the injuries he sustained when he crashed at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

According to the team, Sánchez’s legs feel a bit “blocked”, but they expect him to come on strongly in the second and third weeks. In the meantime, their priority will be to keep Sánchez out of trouble during the first week.;

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).