A photo session for the new publicity campaign, new shoes for the Tour de France, a romantic dinner in Venezia and a stroll the on Prosecco-producing hills with wife Angela: two intensive days for Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in his whirlwind visit to Italia.
The Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears rider, recent winner of la Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, in preparation for the upcoming Tour de France, had reason to visit Northwave headquarters in Onigo di Pederobba (Treviso) to fine tune his new shoes for the French tour.
Accompanied by wife Angela (who celebrated her 25th birthday today), the Spaniard also used the short visit in Italia to indulge in a romantic dinner in Venezia and a tour of the Prosecco-producing hills before departing on a return-flight to Barcelona, and from there to his home in Murcia, to continue with his training in preparations for the upcoming Tour de France.
BiciRace.com: 2 July you will depart from Strasbourg for the Tour de France. How are you preparing for this important appointment?
Alejandro Valverde: Up until now I have trained calmly. From the next week forward I will start to train with more intensity, of which will be my participation in the Dauphiné Libéré [4 - 11 June] to refamiliarize myself with the rhythm of competition.
BR: Have you already previewed some stages and studied the parcours?
AV: Next week I will go to try the mountain stages in the Pyrenees and in the Alps. In regards to the rest of the course, I think that I will need to be very familiar with the time trial, for which I have already started some specific training.
BR: Last year you won a stage in the mountains, to Courchevel [stage 10], in front of Lance Armstrong. Then you were forced to abandon the race three days later with knee problems. What will be your objectives for the 2006 Tour?
AV: I hope to arrive in the first five and maybe also win a stage, in the mountains, specifically in the Pyrenees, in Spain.
BR: According to you who will be the favorites to win the Tour?
AV: Basso, Ullrich, Vinokourov, Mancebo and Popovych.
BR: Are you following the Giro d'Italia? What are you impressions so far?
AV: I watch the race on television every day. It is very hard and demanding, with still many mountains to come. Basso is very strong and will probably be able to win it. But he will not have a lot of time to recuperate for the Tour. I think that Ullrich has made a good choice, the Giro will permit him to find the proper form for the Tour. Also José Enrique Gutierrez, who is currently second in the general classification. I know him well. We were teammates at Kelme before I joined Caisse d'Epargne: He will be able to ride a good Giro, above all in the last week.