Less than two weeks before the start of the Tour de France, 2015 Tour podium finisher Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has recognised that it's going to be very strange for him to take part in cycling's most important stage race without feeling stressed out. The Spanish champion has vowed to help teammate Nairo Quintana win the overall title.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper, El Espanol, Valverde, a pro since 2002, agreed that it would be odd for him to race the Tour de France without fighting for a top placing. "It will be the first-ever Grand Tour and the first major race of any kind that I've taken part feeling completely relaxed.
"If I have to lose time on a flat stage, then I will lose it and I won't be upset."
Third in the Tour last year, Valverde will take part in the Spanish Nationals this week, where he is the defending road race champion, before going on to the Tour de France and the Olympic Games.
The Olympic Games is a major goal for Valverde, but after finishing on the podium of the Giro d'Italia in May, the veteran will be racing the Tour purely in a support role for Quintana.
"When we reach the mountains I'll be fresher this way in order to be able to help Nairo," Valverde commented to El Espanol. "I'll also be freer to hunt for a stage victory, on the understanding, of course, that it doesn't harm the team's main goals.
"I'm already certain, though, that if I'm ahead on a stage and Nairo attacks behind and I receive orders to stop for him, then I will do so. I won't have any problem giving up on wins for him."
Unsurprisingly, Valverde backed Quintana as the Tour winner, saying "He's on the right track. He's not under pressure and he's done his homework."
As for later in the season, Valverde said he is not sure if he will take part in the Vuelta a España, where he took seventh overall, the points classification and a stage win last year.
"If the route had been more in the south of Spain [where Valverde lives] I would be keener to do it because it would be like racing at home. But so many stages in the north changes things a little, also there could be teammates who will want to race it and perhaps it makes more sense for them to do it."