Alejandro Valverde Back To The Tour de France
Valverde’s Tour Preview: Alejandro Valverde; the Spanish allrounder is returning to the ‘Grande Boucle’ after his brutal crash on stage 1 of 2017 race. That crash nearly put an end to Bala’s sporting career, but the man from Murcia has come back stronger in 2018 with a dozen victories before the Tour start. Here are his thoughts on the big race.
Alejandro Valverde and Movistar Tour interview number three. You can read the previous interview with Nairo Quintana HERE and Mikel Landa HERE. The interview is translated from videos taken by the Movistar team.
The 2018 Season:
Alejandro Valverde: “The season has gone extremely well so far. Not only because of the results, but also considering where I come from, after such a serious crash last year. My legs felt incredibly well already since Mallorca, and victories did not take long to start coming. I’ve got already 11 this year, I’ve won all four stage-races I’ve been at this season – one could say this is almost impossible to match.”
Preparations for the Tour
“After Liège-Bastogne-Liège I needed some physical and mental rest, and stayed for seven days completely away from bikes. I then took up training once again and on May 17th, I left for Sierra Nevada. I wasn’t staying in altitude, because it really doesn’t make me improve my form much; it’s all about riding on different roads, staying relaxed, training hard. I’ve got some climbs at home in Murcia, but the longer ascents are not close to where I live – I go to Sierra Nevada to be able to chain several long climbs, those that take 45-50 minutes to complete. I remained there until June 3rd – I got sort of a flu into the last days of that block, so we chose to race Occitanie instead of the Tour de Suisse.
“I’ll be reaching the Tour de France in similar form to previous years, yet maybe with a bit less of racing form. That should help me get to the race fresher, especially because I raced quite less after the Ardennes. It will help me, because the second part of the season will be packed, with the Vuelta a España and a big goal for me: the World Championships.”
“I’m going to the Tour in good condition, just like I wanted, proven by what I did in the Route d’Occitanie. Dani Navarro and Elissonde are good climbers and were really fit in that race, and I was able to keep their pace easily, so I know I’m doing fine. Last year’s crash shouldn’t come across my mind in the early part of the Tour. It’s not going to be special to return to the TDF because of the crash – it’s special in itself to race there. I’m focused on what we want to do. I want to do well, should it be working for Nairo and Mikel or rather, if the race asks us to do so, taking on bigger responsibility and fulfilling the team’s goals. I feel like my current form should be good to be up there with the top contenders.”
“Of course, the top favorite will be Froome. He’s won the Giro and certainly he’s spent a lot of energy, yet he’s got great potential and is experienced enough to keep a consistent form over two Grand Tours, just like he showed last year. Then there’s some riders – Roglic, Porte, Dumoulin, Nibali, Bardet, Urán…- who will surely be near him, which we must keep under controlled. I think the race will be more open this race, because Froome wasn’t as dominant as in other races at this year’s Giro. You could see some weaknesses in him, and he was only able to turn things around into the final weekend.”
Team and Leader Cohabitation:
“There won’t be any problems into the team, we will get on well with each other. Besides, this year’s Tour route suits well our strategy of having three leaders. There are some short stages, many difficult days… Launching one of us on the attack will hurt our rivals and create some uncertainty. We have to play those cards. I don’t know if we’ll win, but surely we’ll offer some fireworks.
“The team is everything. You can have good legs, but without strong backing, it’s really difficult to achieve any results, neither at the Tour nor at any other race. I think everyone in the team is really focused on the task, trying to get to the start in the best possible form.”
“We can’t really say anything new about Nairo at this point. He’s a big Tour contender. He must not get obsessed with this, yet he’s got a Tour win in his legs. Landa has always ridden behind another leader’s shadow, but he’s already shown to be strong enough to win a Grand Tour. Erviti is extremely important for me. A great team-mate, one I always share rooms with at races – he’s full of knowledge, keeps you calm when you’re racing and also outside the competition itself. He studies every stage in detail, knows what to do, and makes you confident about your chances. Rojas is an excellent allrounder: he can help you into the crosswinds, lead you out, keep you at the front on the cobblestones, he stays into the bunch in the mid mountains when there’s only 30 riders left at the front… Amador and Soler are riders who will have to save some energy for the end because, other than the cobblestones, they can do really well in all kinds of mountains, staying close to us when the real selection forms. And Bennati – he’s 100% reliability. Having Daniele by your side makes you really calm. Those difficult, opening nine days, with strong winds, tricky flat roads, pavé – he’s going to make things quite easier for us.”
“I like this year’s parcours. I think it’s perfect for the team we’ll be bringing to the race. It hasn’t got much TT terrain, and the only individual time trial is quite hilly. We’ve got a very decent roster for the team time trial, and will try not to lose much time. Until the pavé stage, the Tour will be a race of attrition. You’ll have to always keep the front, be lucky, not crash – and then, as we head into the mountains, there’s basically everything you could ask for. Legendary climbs, some which we haven’t tackled before, and above them all, that 65km stage where someone who doesn’t go through a particularly good day can lost everything. The final TT is really demanding, it’s not for a specialist by any means – the climbs who still maintain some energy and good condition could do well there.
“I’ve ridden through some of the routes, most importantly the pavé stage, which was important to get used to. I’ve also inspected the ITT and I took advantage from Occitanie to get to know some of the Pyrenees route. However, I’m not the like who tries to recon every stage. It’s important, but it’s also good for you to stay calm, train well and rest as much as you can.”
The Tour: Memories
What the Tour means for him:
“It’s the most important race in the world for every rider. From all stage-races, this is the most relevant, the most famous one. Winning the Tour must be amazing.”
“I remember the Val Louron stage, when Indurain got into the break as ‘Perico’ told him to go on the attack, then he won the stage and took the yellow jersey. I hold great memories from that day.”
His first TDF:
“It was incredible. The amount of media present, the enormous crowds, everything around this race – it really caught my attention, it was spectacular.”
“It was a very special day for me. My legs felt great from the start of the stage and, as I saw Basso, Ullrich, Vinokourov dropping back while I stayed with Armstrong, Rasmussen and Mancebo in the lead, I realized I had a chance to win with my finishing speed. Armstrong jumped with 500 meters to go, trying to stay close to the barriers to not let me space and catch me by surprise, but I was able to measure my efforts well and beat him.”
“It was spectacular. I didn’t even want to sprint that day, but Iván Gutiérrez told me to follow his wheel to the front of the bunch, because I had a chance. I trusted him, won the stage and put on the yellow jersey. You feel like the king of the world when you lead the Tour de France. Super happy. Wearing the jersey, even if it’s only for one day, is fantastic.”
“It was an unbelievable day. I was coming back to the Tour in 2012 after a year and a half’s stop. I suffered many crashes during that Tour, and it was my final chance to score a win. I attacked from afar, had good help into the break and was able to finish it off on my own. The GC group never took things easy, always went chasing us, and that made it even more valuable.”
Paris podium (2015):
“It was like a victory for me. I always helped Nairo during that race, even risked my own podium for his chances by going on a long-range attack when he asked me to do so. When I got to the top of Alpe d’Huez and saw I was going to finish in 3rd, I couldn’t stop crying. It was massive redemption for me. I left so out of energy that I had fever a day later and was close to abandoning the race in the Champs-Élysées. I couldn’t really enjoy the feeling of being on the Paris podium.”
“You go through happiness, sadness… but my worst moment was last year’s crash, barely 6km after taking the start into a Tour where I was feeling great. It’s over now – everyone has seen I’m doing great, and I’m happy to be back.”
# Big thanks to Movistar Communications for the insight. You can find more on the Movistar Team website. #
You can see the ‘PEZ Tour Route Preview’ HERE and stay tuned for the rider preview on Wednesday.