One of the biggest stories of 2005 was the rise of Alejandro Valverde. Last year the 25 year-old finally crossed the Spanish border to win on the international scene, releasing the fire-power that many knew he had in his arsenal. Early success came in March with a stage win in the Paris-Nice and then the big one in July, out-gunning Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France. But even more impressing was his comeback in September to claim silver at the World Championships, narrowly missing out on the rainbow jersey. Valverde will be a force to be reckoned with in 2006 and beyond. Read the BiciRace.com exclusive interview with the Spaniard and learn more.
Interviewed by Paco of BiciRace.com
BiciRace.com: Hello Alejandro. Thank you for taking some time out of your schedule for this interview. Have you visited our site, BiciRace.com?
Alejandro Valverde: Up until now my schedule has been insane and I haven't had the chance to check out BiciRace.com. However, I have book marked it and plan on checking it out as soon as possible.
BR: No pressure, please visit when you can. Until the 2005 season most of your victories were limited to within the Spanish borders. This past year, however, you took some superb stage wins in both Paris-Nice and Tour de France. What have you done differently to achieve these results?
AV: The answer to that is simple: I crossed the Pyrenees to race outside of Spain. Seriously though, up until this last season my racing campaign was largely domestic and it wasn't until this last season that I was really able to race outside of my home country in Paris-Nice and of course the Tour de France.
BR: Of course, racing with your old Kelme squadra it was hard to get invites to the 'big' races. Much has been said about your belief that the Tour podium is beyond your abilities, at least for the last few years. Now that you have raced in the Tour what do you feel needs to improve most in order to be a contender?
AV: I guess I'd have to say the biggest thing I need to do is to first finish a Tour de France before I can explore the possibility of winning it. Finishing in the top five of the 2006 Tour is I feel a realistic goal given my abilities. ... And a podium place on the general classification would be a dream come true.
BR: From what BiciRace.com saw during your 2005 season we think you can be on the podium in 2006. And at the 2005 you dropped Armstrong and took out a huge victory on Courchevel. What were the sensations going through your head when you were with Armstrong and when you realized that you beat him?
AV: Wow, I suppose the biggest sensation I felt that day was just amazement at the company I was keeping on the climb to Courchevel (Lance Armstrong, Michael Rasmussen and Francisco Mancebo). There aren't words to describe the feelings I had when I realized I crossed the line in front of Armstrong for the victory.
BR: The victory was tremendous, plus your group had dropped the likes of Ullrich and Basso. Your DS, Eusebio Unzúe, was there and guiding you that day, and in the past there was Vicente Belda at Kelme. Given that you have only ridden for these two different directors, which of the two do you feel understands you better as a rider?
AV: Vicente Belda had, in a sense, raised me in the races that fill the Spanish calendar... While Eusebio Unzúe has more experience in the Tour having directed and won it several times. Eusebio tries to get me to channel my energies into the race at hand and to focus myself on certain objectives throughout the season. ... Because I am a very competitive person and I have to focus myself in this way.
BR: BiciRace.com has heard that you are a car fanatic. What is parked in your driveway these days?
AV: Actually at the moment I have a Mercedes sports car as well as a Mini Cooper in the garage.
BR: Both nice cars. Do you have your mind on buying a new model? Maybe something Italian?
AV: I prefer all sports cars in general. As much of a car freak as I am, I haven't really thought about cars that much lately as I'm totally focused on the upcoming season.
BR: Yes, it is better to focus on bikes and training. Pinarello was the bike supplier in 2005 (with the Opera Leonardo) and also this season. Which model does the team use?
AV: The team will use a 'Pinarello' Paris Carbon frame this season.
BR: Do you prefer an all carbon frame, like the Paris Carbon, or do you like other materials, like the Magnesium model (Dogma)?
AV: The Pinarello Dogma is a frame that I really like as well and I may use this in 2006.
BR: Both are nice models. Over the winter you spent time in Treviso at the Pinarello factory. Were you able to learn a lot in regards to your bike position?
AV: This winter we have started working with a biomechanic [Alessandro Mariano] recommended by Fausto Pinarello and he's been to the Pinarello factory in Treviso to with us a few times. Everybody benefits greatly from his insight and recommendations. What I would like to gain most from working with the biomechanic is to improve in my time trialing. That discipline is what I need to improve most if I intend to compete for the overall in the Tour de France.
BR: Mariano helped Ivan Gotti in the past, with him and Pinarello you should be in good hands for the 2006 campaign.
BR: You are recently married Do you find that being married makes it easier to deal with the extreme demands placed on you by your sport?
AV: Absolutely. Being married certainly helps deal with a lot of the stress and of course it's nice to come home to my wife after being on the road for a month. But as nice as it is in the end you realize that it's still just you pushing the pedals day in and day out.
BR: Yes, very true, it is still a hard job. Who is your favorite cyclist or the one that gave you the most inspiration?
AV: I'd have to say that Miguel Indurain is my favorite cyclist of all time. He is somebody that I've always idolized because of the way he rode and how he always managed to keep his cool. When he started his career he wasn't the great stage race champion that he was when he retired. Throughout his career he evolved from an outsider into one of the greatest stage racers of all time.
BR: He was amazing and he achieved a lot, and not only in the Tour. We think you will do great and have some huge success, just like Big Mig. Thanks for taking time out of your insane schedule for the BiciRace.com interview. Good luck with the 2006 Season. Ciao!