BOULOGNE SUR MER, France - Reuters
Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde (L) made a return to the Tour de France after being given a two-year ban in 2008. REUTERS photo
Alejandro Valverde’s Movistar team manager has warned against overlooking the Spaniard, back on the Tour de France for the first time since 2008 after a two-year doping ban.
“Everybody’s saying it’s a closed race because of the importance of time trials but I’m not so sure. On the contrary, I think it’s going to be a very open Tour de France,” Yvon Ledanois told Reuters at the start of the third stage in Orchies yesterday.
Defending champion Cadel Evans and Briton Bradley Wiggins are widely tipped as the favourites to win the Tour but Ledanois believes the race scenario could be very different from the pre-written one. “No offense to Cadel, but I think the race above all rests on the shoulders of [Wiggins’] Team Sky and I don’t think they will be as strong as they were this season, in the Dauphine for instance,” he said.Good news
“Their rivalry is good news for the other teams for they will be watching each other. And which of them will take responsibility for the chase if another contender goes? My bet is that they won’t budge or react too late,” he added.
Ledanois believed teams without a great time-trial specialist might “form an alliance” against Evans and Wiggins.
“Valverde is not a fantastic time-trial specialist and not a pure climber either. But there are several other Tour contenders with the same profile and if they join forces, I’m convinced we’re in for a big surprise,” he said. Strong riders
manager of the Spanish team, which also includes strong riders such as Tour of Switzerland winner Rui Costa, added that the Tour outcome may not be decided in the time trials or mountain stages like everyone says.
“Other stages like the eighth to Porrentruy are much harder than most think,” he said, believing they could suit his leader perfectly.
Valverde - the Spanish Vuelta winner in 2009 - finished sixth in the Tour in 2007 and eighth in 2008, winning two stages and holding the yellow jersey for two days.
Since his return to competition this season, he won the Tour of Andalucia and a stage in Paris-Nice, where he finished third behind Wiggins and Dutchman Lieuwe Westra.
“Alejandro may not have had his best season but he’s ready. He’s in great shape and in the Tour of Switzerland, there were not many riders left behind when he took turns in the mountains working for Costa,” Ledanois said.