Two Grand Tours down with just one to go, so how have my boys been faring? Samuel Sanchez took part in the Giro and will be leading his team in the Vuelta later this month. While both Alberto Contador and Alejandro Valverde participated in the 100th Tour de France, the former won’t be taking part in the Vuelta but the latter will. Let’s have a look at how they’ve performed since early April.
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff)
- 33rd at Fleche Wallonne.
- 57th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
- 10th overall, one 2nd place at Criterium du Dauphine.
- 4th overall, one second place and four other top-10s at the Tour de France.
WorldTour ranking: 12th, 252 pts.
It’s official, Alberto’s enduring an off-season. Early on he struggled to impose himself in the mountains and even looked uncomfortable in the time trials, constantly fidgeting on his saddle. His lack of form in the Ardennes Classics and Dauphine was excused by his well-known issue with allergies – we said it would all come good in July. To be fair, Alberto went into the Tour in a positive frame of mind, on the back of excellent numbers in training and with an effective team bolstered by the additions of Nico Roche, Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger but, while he looked much better in the time trials, he seemed to have lost his sparkle in the mountains.
Pretty much as in last year’s Vuelta, he only took back time on a benign transition stage largely thanks to crosswinds. He said he’d be happy to gamble his second place to move up and he rolled the dice all the way down to fourth overall on the penultimate stage. Saxo-Tinkoff picking up the overall team prize was scant consolation. He was subsequently criticised on Twitter by Oleg ‘the Terrible’ Tinkoff for being overpaid, unprofessional and not working hard enough. Tinkoff’s not ponying up funds for 2014 so team manager Bjarne Riis will need to find additional funds for next year. Meanwhile, Tinkoff is
promising threatening to set up another WorldTour team.
Alberto’s recently embarked on a series of events, criteriums and races largely for the benefit of his enormous fan base. Just last weekend he rode with fans up the mythical climbs of the Gavia and Mortirolo for sunglass sponsor Zeroh+. Thereafter, Alberto has confirmed he will focus on a series of one-day races, including GP de Plouay in France, followed by the two Canadian WorldTour events, and end his season with Milano-Torino and Il Lombardia. He also expressed interest in racing the World Championships in Florence were he to be selected.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
- 2nd at Amstel Gold.
- 7th at Fleche Wallonne.
- 3rd at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
- 9th overall, 4th on one stage and 8th on another at Tour of Romandie.
- 7th overall, 4th on one stage, 6th on two stages and 8th on another at Criterium du Dauphine.
- 8th overall, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th on stages at centenary Tour de France.
- 2nd at Clasica San Sebastian.
WorldTour ranking: 6th, 334 pts.
In 41 days of racing (6,505km) in the last five months, Alejandro Valverde has been Mr Consistency: racking up UCI points in WorldTour races to catapault up the rankings. There was talk pre-Tour that the Spanish Armada – Valverde, Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez – might unite once again to beat the Skybots. Things were looking good for Valverde, sitting in second place overall, until the fateful stage 13 where crosswinds wreaked havoc during the flat 173km ride to Saint-Amand-Montrond. He lost any chance of gaining time on eventual winner Chris Froome (Sky) when his back wheel was destroyed by a falling rider in the feedzone. Indeed, he lost almost nine minutes to Froome and ten to Contador. Thereafter, Valverde rode for young team-mate Nairo Quinatana who finished runner-up and picked up both the young riders’ and mountain jerseys in his maiden Tour.
After a few days’ break back with his family, he took the runner’s-up spot at the Clasica San Sebastian. Valverde has been training at altitude ahead of the Vuelta a Burgos and his attempt at a second victory in the Vuelta and finally – after so many podium places – a crack at becoming road race World Champion.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
- 37th at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
- 12th overall, one 2nd place, a 4th and a 5th on stages at Giro d’Italia.
- 9th overall, won queen stage at Criterium du Dauphine.
WorldTour ranking: 59th, 58 pts.
Unusually, Samu is not his team’s leading UCI points scorer but he’ll be looking to rectify that at the Vuelta and Il Lombardia. He had a disappointing Giro d’Italia where he was hoping for at least a stage win to add to those from the two other grand tours. He looked to have stage 18’s hilly individual time trial in the bag only to be beaten by race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). But you can’t keep a good man down and he bounced back to take the queen stage in the Criterium du Dauphine before having a much-needed break.
He’s been training at altitude in preparation for leading the team, in what might be its last season, in this month’s Vuelta a Burgos followed by the Vuelta a Espana. Then, it’ll be the World Championships in Tuscany on a parcours much suited to his characteristics. A rainbow jersey might be fitting recompense for having to seek employment in a team other than Euskaltel, where he’s ridden his entire career. He could carry off those horizontal stripes on his slim frame rather better than some but it would definitely pose a challenge for his shoe sponsor!
Previous update: 10th April.
Websites: Alberto Contador, Alejandro Valverde, Samuel Sanchez
Twitter: @albertocontador, @alejanvalverde