TOUR DE FRANCE 2007:VALVERDE SHOWS HE IS A MAJOR TOUR CONTENDER
Spain’s Alejandro Valverde showed he is determined to race hard and take on his main rivals for the yellow jersey with an aggressive ride on the Galibier on Tuesday.
The little Caisse d’Epargne team leader made four powerful accelerations on the steep final eight kilometres of the Galibier that cracked Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) and sent all of his rivals into the red. Valverde also suffered later on the climb but finished strongly, sprinting on the uphill finish in Briancon to take the 12-second time bonus for second place and move up to second overall behind Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) at 2-35.
"I attacked in the Galibier because I realized that Vinokourov was in difficulty. I felt good and had the legs to attack, so I knew I had to go without hesitating,” Valverde said after the last Alpine stage of this year’s Tour.
“I think I’ve proven that I’m not a rider who doesn’t take the initiative, as some people have said, and when there is an opportunity to attack, I go for it!”
Although team mates Vladimir Karpets and Oscar Pereiro did not finish in the key front group, Valverde had excellent support from Jose Ivan Gutierrez, who helped him chase a strong attack by Alberto Contador near the summit of the Galibier and close gaps on the long descent to Briancon.
“Fortunately I could count on an extraordinary team, especially Iván Gutiérrez, who did some exceptional work to help me,” he said.
“When Contador attacked near the top of the Galibier, I didn’t panic because I knew that Ivan was in front and help me. It was better to climb at my own rhythm and then realize a super descent. It would have been nice to win the stage but I am very satisfied with the development of the stage."
Like all the overall favourites Valverde will use the three flat stages in the South of France to recover from his efforts in the Alps, before trying to topple Rasmussen and further distance Evans, Mayo, Contador and Moreau in the Pyrenees. He has improved his time trialing in recent years and could take over the yellow jersey in front of the thousands of Spanish cycling fans expected to pack Pyrenees for the decisive mountain stages of the Tour.