Not even the prospect of becoming the best-paid rider in cycling history appears to have tempted Alejandro Valverde to quit his current team, Caisse D?Epargne and jump ship at the last minute for 2007 to T-Mobile.
After negotiations had begun as early as September last year, T-Mobile had made the 2006 ProTour winner an offer believed to be in the region of 10 million euros for three seasons. But Valverde is now said to be much more likely to remain with Caisse D?Epargne. Following talks with their current backers, the Spanish team have not managed to match the German squad?s offer but the difference is apparently small enough for Valverde to decide to stay put.
T-Mobile are playing down the latest development in the week-long will-he won?t he saga as best they can. T-Mobile rider and triple World Time Trial Champion Australian Mick Rogers – who will now remain nominal team leader for the Tour – told CW that ?the first news I even heard about Valverde was that he wasn?t coming to our team. So you can hardly say it was a question I bothered paying much attention to.?
However, the visits of new team manager Bob Stapleton and his directeur sportif Rolf Aldag to Valverde?s house in Murcia in late December, coupled with the massive offer made to the Spaniard, were strong indications of how determined T-Mobile were to sign Valverde.
Spanish press reports say that Valverde will now sign for Caisse D?Epargne for another three seasons this weekend – from 2008 to 2010. Leading the team in 2007, in any case, is now a virtual certainty.