In just seven days racing in 2013, Alejandro Valverde has already taken four victories including one overall stage race win at the Tour of Andalusia - and his team, Movistar, are already talking about how they will need to keep a tight rein on the Spaniard in order to ensure he reaches the second half of the season in good shape.
Movistar sports director Eusebio Unzue told Spanish sports daily MARCA that the plan is for Valverde to reach the Tour de France with around 28 or 30 days racing in his legs, up to nine days less than 2012.
“If he gets to the Tour fresher then he’ll do a better race there and then he can go for the Vuelta,” Unzue said.
“Although the organisers, public and even Alejandro himself may not understand it, because they want to see him race, there will come a point when we have to limit the amount of energy he uses up,” team trainer Mikel Zabala added.
“He could win races from January through to October, but we have to be careful and make sure he doesn’t burn himself out.”
Valverde has even taken the opening prologue of Andalusia this year, which has hardly been one of his specialities in the past. “He’s the same Alejandro as ever, he gets back to a competitive level very fast,” says Unzue, “but Sunday was a surprise for all of us, even Alejandro. He had said he was feeling good half way through and decided to go all out for the win.”
“This year he should bet it all on the Tour de France, though, and that’s why we have to be careful about how and where he races.”
As a result, rather than take part in Paris-Nice - in which he finished third and won a stage last year - Valverde will race the one-day Vuelta a Murcia, Strade Bianche and Giro di Lazio. His next stage race will be either the Volta a Catalunya, where he will have Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) as key rivals, or the Tour of the Basque Country, where he will be racing against Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff).