By Andrew Hood
Following his victory this weekend at the Vuelta a Burgos, Alejandro Valverde now has his eyes set on the overall title at the Vuelta a España.
On Sunday, Valverde did what he needed to on the climbing stage to the Lagunas de Neila to bounce ahead of Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream) and claim the overall at the 31st Burgos tour. It marked Valverde’s seventh win on the 2009 season.
“I had the strength and the necessary motivation to do it, and this is very important for me, when there are less than three weeks before the start of the Vuelta,” Valverde said. “I will keep working to arrive at 100 percent in Assen on August 29 and try to win my first grand tour of three weeks.”
“BalaVerde” won’t be able to count on Caisse d’Epargne teammate Oscar Pereiro, however, who has begged off the season’s final grand tour, complaining of chronic fatigue. The 2006 Tour de France winner pulled out of the 2009 Tour in the first week.
His contract is up for renewal at the end of this season, so it will be interesting to see how the Spanish team handles Pereiro’s future in light of a sub-par season.
Valverde, meanwhile, wants to finally win a grand tour and is doubly motivated after being sidelined from this year’s Tour due to a two-year racing ban handed down by Italian authorities for what they say is irrefutable evidence that links Valverde to the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
Valverde continues to insist on his innocence and has a team of lawyers trying to overturn the Italian ban and resisting UCI efforts to extend the Italy-only ban to a universal prohibition that could keep the Spanish rider out of competition for up to two years.
UCI officials insist that until the issue is resolved in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Valverde is free to race — so long as it’s not within Italy.
Caisse d’Epargne officials also announced six of the eight riders that will accompany Valverde to the Vuelta. Joining him will be Joaquim Rodríguez, Alberto Losada, Imanol Erviti, Txente García, Fran Pérez and Daniel Moreno.
Two more riders will be named later to round out the team’s Vuelta roster. Officials said they will pick from Vasil Kiryienka, David López, Luis Pasamontes or Xabier Zandio.
In other team news, Caisse d’Epargne will lose the services of scrappy rider Joaquim Rodríguez, who has agreed to join the Russian-backed Katusha team for 2010.
Italian media have reported that Marzio Bruseghin, 35, has signed a two-year deal to join Caisse d’Epargne for 2010-11.
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