Valverde still in contention for Paris-Nice victory

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) snatched back ten seconds of his deficit to Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at Paris-Nice on Tuesday thanks to the time bonus for stage victory at Lac de Vassivière. The Spaniard remains twenty seconds off the overall lead, but in spite of the final day time trial to the Col d’Eze, he remains determined to deny Wiggins overall victory.

“I’m still focused on the general classification, there are still stages that are going to suit me,” Valverde said, according to “Beating Wiggins is going to be very difficult, but it’s possible.”

Tuesday’s victory was Valverde’s fourth since he returned from suspension for his part in Operacion Puerto at the beginning of this season. He was banned in 2010 after his DNA was matched to blood bags seized from Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, albeit after a lengthy process.

As part of new anti-doping measures, Valverde cannot score any WorldTour ranking points for the first two years following his return from suspension.

“The important things are victories and podiums, and this one here is very important,” he said. “It’s Paris-Nice, the first big international stage race of the year.”

Valverde is also planning to return to the biggest stage race of them all, the Tour de France. His last participation in the race in 2008 ultimately brought about his belated downfall, thanks to an Italian Olympic Committee-sanctioned blood test when the race visited Pratonevoso.

DNA from that sample was matched to the blood bags seized from Fuentes, although it took almost two years and a CAS ruling before Valverde was fully sanctioned.

“Like before, the Tour de France is a real objective, for the GC and above all for stages,” Valverde said. “But before that, I’m going to race the three Ardennes classics, Amstel, Flèche and Liège, with the intention of winning one of them.”

Twice a winner at Liège-Bastogne-Liège before his suspension, Valverde watched from the sidelines as Philippe Gilbert dominated the Ardennes classics a year ago. The pair will renew hostilities this season.

“If it’s the same Philippe Gilbert as last year, he’ll be hard to beat. He was very strong and quite simply the best.”


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