By Antonio J. Salmerón in Paris
Alejandro Valverde started the Tour de France convinced that he could be on the podium in Paris. But after cracking in the Pyrenees, he managed only ninth, 7'12 down on the winner, Carlos Sastre. The two will meet again at the Vuelta a España (August 30-September 21). Before that, both riders will head to the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Valverde was getting ready for the lap of honour that each team gets to enjoy on the Champs-Elysées, when he summed up his Tour for Cyclingnews. "After three weeks I have demonstrated that I am capable of fighting with the best. But I had a bad day on the Tourmalet and a crash, from which I managed to recover... although I am not sure how far I could have gone without it," he said. Valverde made no secret about the fact that he prefers the Alps over the Pyrenees. The longer, more gradual climbs are his preferred terrain.
If Valverde expects to win a Grand Tour, he will have to improve his time trialling abilities. "In Cholet I lost more time than I would have expected. But it was a course for the specialists who can push the big ring. I am not like that, although I have improved. I also wasn't good in the penultimate stage. Maybe because I wasn't competing for the podium, I was lacking a bit of motivation."
Despite the setbacks, Valverde was satisfied with his Tour. "I got the first victory that was so important to our team, because of the sponsorships. This triumph encouraged us a lot, especially with having the yellow jersey. We tried another time, in Super Besse. But after the great work from my team-mates we couldn't pull it off." Valverde was really impressed with his Caisse d'Epargne squad this year. "The team was very consistent the entire Tour, especially taking into account the abandoning of Oscar Pereiro."
The Caisse d'Epargne captain was not only happy for his own success. "I was really happy about the victory of my compatriot and friend Luis León Sánchez, and – why not – for Oscar Freire and Carlos Sastre. There were others on the team that came close to victory, like David Arroyo." Arroyo finished third in stage 16.
On Sunday, Valverde will travel to Beijing, together with the Spanish team. It is comprised of Oscar Freire, Samuel Sánchez, Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador. "I barely have time to rest and enjoy hanging out with my family. But I have an appointment to fulfil a dream – to be in the Olympics. I can't make predictions for the road race, but we have a very competitive team."
His busy fall programme then sees him racing his home Tour. "Yes, I will be in the Vuelta a España, but only to go for stage wins, not the overall. That will be up to riders like Contador, Sastre, Samuel Sánchez... and others who have really prepared for this race."
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