By Andrew Hood
Tour de France winner-in-waiting Oscar Pereiro said he expects Caisse d’Epargne teammate Alejandro Valverde to win the Vuelta a España, which is set to start on Saturday in sunny Málaga.
He said Valverde will have fresher legs and more motivation for the season’s final three-week grand tour following the chaos that’s come in the wake of the Floyd Landis doping scandal.
“I bet that Valverde will win the Vuelta,” Pereiro said in an interview with the Spanish daily AS. “Alejandro and I are good teammates and good friends. The circumstances of the road will put us in our place and dictate if one has to work for the other.”
The Tour runner-up said his hectic post-Tour schedule and demands following the Floyd Landis doping scandal has thrown his training program into chaos.
“I am very tired after what’s happened all around me, above all psychologically. I have been trying to train but I still lack rhythm. You don’t lose the form of the Tour in one month, so I am hoping to regain the edge in the first few days of the race,” he said. “They pay more attention to me and I am the center of a lot of looks, but the way I am and the way I race won’t change.”
Pereiro said he would have no problem riding for Valverde, who was supposed to be the team’s leader at the Tour before he cracked his clavicle in the first week. That opened the door for Pereiro’s unlikely journey to the Tour podium and possible overall victory.
“In principal, Valverde and I will share leadership duties in the team. We both aspire for all in the race. For my part, I hope not to lose too much time in the first part of the race while I try to regain fitness,” he said. “What I hope to do is arrive in the last week of the race in good position to fight for the GC.”
With Landis failing doping tests for an irregular testosterone/epitestosterone ratio, Pereiro could become named overall Tour victor. He repeated earlier statements that he felt like he deserved the Tour victory if Landis fails in his efforts to clear his name.
“If someone cheats it’s logical that they’re punished,” he said. “The truth is, I feel bad for Floyd, who is my friend. It’s sad that they take away a victory like this, even though I rode a great race and I believe that I am the just winner.”
Riis: ‘Basso must prove his innocence’
Bjarne Riis, sport director of Team CSC, is taking a grim view of the future of Ivan Basso to continue with his team, he told the Danish daily Politiken in an interview.
The 28-year-old Basso is facing allegations that he worked with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes during his impressive 2006 Giro d’Italia victory and is facing an inquiry by the Italian cycling federation later this month.
“Ivan must prove his innocence to us,” Riis told the newspaper. “If it’s shown that Basso had a liaison with Fuentes, if he lied to me and betrayed the team and the values which we defend on this team, he is finished at CSC.”
Basso was suspended by Team CSC following his alleged connection to Fuentes, the doctor who is at the center of an ongoing doping investigation in Spain.
Basso was among nine riders from four teams who were not allowed to start the 2006 Tour de France after he was linked to Fuentes. Basso, meanwhile, has denied working with Fuentes and vows to clear his name.
Petacchi confirmed for Vuelta
Despite struggling in comeback races last week, Italian star sprinter confirmed he will start the Vuelta a España.
Petacchi was sidelined after breaking his kneecap in the third stage of the Giro d’Italia and returned to action earlier this month. He struggled through the Regio Tour last week in Germany, but told La Gazzetta dello Sport he will be in Málaga on Saturday.
Astarloa, Guerini both sidelined
Former world champion Igor Astarloa (Barloworld) has had to pull out of a trio of mid-week semi-classics this week in Italy after coming down an allergic reaction to his skin. Team officials said he will undergo tests to try to determine what’s causing the problem.
Meanwhile, Italian veteran Giuseppe Guerini suffered a hairline fracture in his left collarbone after crashing in Friday’s third stage at the Regio Tour. He likely won’t need surgery and is expected to miss at least two weeks of action, T-Mobile reported.