Alejandro Valverde aiming for the top of the podium at Vuelta a Espana

Ambitious Alejandro Valverde faces Vuelta a España with optimismo, looks for his second overall victory after 2009 following last season’s results, with a 2nd place in the GC, two stages and the Points and Combination jerseys

A large pool of journalists gathered at the Parador de Pontevedra this afternoon as Alejandro Valverde spoke to the media alongside Movistar Team general manager Eusebio Unzué, commenting on his feelings with just over 24 hours before the start of the Vuelta a España. Following a second recon of Saturday’s TTT course -the first one held on Thursday evening- and before tonight’s teams’ presentation in the Isla de la Toja (from 19.30 local time), the 2013 Vuelta’s bib number 1 gave his opinion on multiple subjects summed up here:

How do you feel coming into the race?
“I’m feeling strong at the moment. I finished the Tour in good condition and could take some rest and start building up again. I kept on racing until San Sebastián, started recovering afterwards and felt rather well in the last training sessions. We all in the team feel confident and willing to get this started. It’s hard to get back after such bad moments I had to go through during the Tour, but being honest, when you analise it, you realize you can’t do anything to avoid such misfortune. This is cycling: sometimes you feel happy, sometimes you feel sad. I went through a couple of bad days after the mechanical, but was later able to bounce back and help Nairo – I feel happy after all.”

Being taken out of Tour contention allowed you to get stronger to the Vuelta?
“I don’t know if I’m coming here stronger than in 2012 or not. It’s true that that the crashes in the first ten days of last year’s Tour leave you a bit sore, the body doesn’t react the same way nor spends the same energy, and you don’t take such big exigence. I don’t know if that favoured me to get fresher into the Vuelta or not, but I’m feeling strong right now and I hope to keep it that way throughout the race.”

You say you’re coming strong into the race, but – is it enough to fight for the overall?
“My aim is fighting for the highest step of the podium in Madrid. I know what it takes to win a Grand Tour – 21 days where you have to get through any obstacle. I really like this race and my goal coming into the start will be winning it.”

One of the key stages of this year’s race will be Peyragudes, which you know well…
“My memories on that stages are really beautiful, of course – I got such an important win there in last year’s Tour. The last three climbs are the same from last year, and those coming earlier are hard, too. For me, it will be the Queen stage, no doubt. There are some really hard ones, playing an important role into the final outcome, but that’s the hardest one. Angliru? Even though there’s plenty of mountains before that stage, I think the three or four strongest into the race can still be fighting for the overall there.

Who do you respect the most: Nibali or Purito?
“I fear both of them the same way. Joaquim is really dangerous because so many finishes suit him well, while Nibali already won the Giro this year and could recover well after the race – he’ll be one to beat.”

Which stage could be the key of this year’s race?
“Every day can be dangerous here. You could see it at Fuente Dé. No one could think it was going to be so crucial, with all hard stages before it – and it was. It’s obvious that winning a three-week stagerace requires full focus, every single day. The bonus seconds? Our goal is winning in Madrid, and should we fight for those in some stage, we’ll go for them.”

How do you feel about the Vuelta’s demanding depart in Galicia?
“No doubt it will be hard, because even tomorrow’s TTT won’t be flat, not for a metre. Lumpy roads will make it harder. The first mountain-top finish on Sunday has a tricky start; Monday’s stage is one to be cautious, too. Every finish can become difficult.”

Do you feel happy about your team? Winning tomorrow is a goal?
“I really happy with the guys around me. It’s a balanced block, with mountain riders and power horses for the flat. As I stated before, the goal is winning in Madrid, but tomorrow’s stage will also be an important day for us. Last year’s TTT might have suited us a bit better, but this one doesn’t do bad either, and we’ll try and get into the fight to repeat last year’s result. Should things go well, we can get our hands on the red early into the race, but we’re not obsessed with it. The last week will be very tough and a more calm approach wouldn’t do us bad either.” 

Only one ITT in this year’s route…
“The fact that there’s only one individual time trial favours me, especially because it’s not a flat one. I think it’ll be quite hard, and even though Nibali has some time at his favour, looking at how I performed in the Tour, I’m confident I can do well.” 

Are you thinking about the Worlds, too?
“I keep them on my mind – it’s a good chance for me, in a beautiful route that suits me well. But now it’s time to think about the Vuelta. We have three long and hard weeks ahead, and the one who ends the Vuelta in good condition stays like that in the Worlds, so it will pretty much depend on that. Which do I prefer to win? You’re putting me on a tight spot. Both are important, but I won this race and finished in 2nd and 3rd, I won stages… meanwhile, I got four medals in the Worlds but couldn’t win the road race yet. Becoming World champion is a dream for pretty much everyone, and I’d like to win the Worlds before retiring.”

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