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Tour de France

Valverde to focus on Tour in 2009

Alejandro Valverde has won just about everything he’s wanted in his productive career, except a grand tour. Prolific in one-day classics and smaller stage races, Spain’s “Balaverde” has struggled in GC in three-week grand tours. With two podium finishes in the Vuelta a España, Valverde still believes he can win a major tour.

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Valverde is aiming at the Tour de France for 2009.

Valverde is aiming at the Tour de France for 2009.

Photo: Graham Watson

Alejandro Valverde has won just about everything he’s wanted in his productive career, except a grand tour.

Prolific in one-day classics and smaller stage races, Spain’s “Balaverde” has struggled in GC in three-week grand tours. With two podium finishes in the Vuelta a España, Valverde still believes he can win a major tour.

“I don’t know if it’s the Vuelta, the Tour of the Giro, but I believe I am capable of winning one of them,” Valverde told the Spanish daily AS. “In the Tour (2008) I had a bad day on the Tourmalet, and in the Vuelta, an error on the stage to Suances proved very expensive. But the other 20 days I was one the same level as the best in both races.”

After a very successful 2008 season, that included victories at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Dauphiné Libéré and the Clásica San Sebastian, stage victories and runs in the leader’s jerseys at both the Tour and Vuelta, and his second ProTour title in three years, the Caisse d’Epargne star expressed satisfaction.

For 2009, Valverde will focus exclusively on the Tour de France as he continues toward his goal of winning one of cycling’s three-week stage races.

“I am going to bet everything on (the Tour). I still have to speak with (sport director Eusebio) Unzué, but my idea is to prepare for the Tour specifically and not race until April,” Valverde said. “For once, I want to arrive at the Tour like everyone, preparing for the race thoroughly and not giving a pedal stroke more.”

Valverde said the unconventional route for next year, with the summit finish to Mont Ventoux coming on the penultimate day, favors his style of riding, but he stopped short of predicting overall victory.

“To win the Tour is difficult. You have to race everything very well. The smallest of problems can ruin everything. I hope to be on the podium,” he concluded. “I like the route, above all, the stage that finishes atop Ventoux instead of a flat time trial of 50km. It fits well with my characteristics.”