Alejandro Valverde may be banned for two years in Italy because of his alleged connections with Operacion Puerto, but he?s still racing in Spain. And doing well. On Tuesday Valverde moved into the overall lead of the Tour of Catalonia.
The Caisse d?Epargne rider was part of a group of 50-odd riders that went clear on the final climb of a mountainous stage running from Girona to Roses on the Meditteranean coast.
Previous leader Thor Hushovd (Cervélo) was not in the group and although Valverde was only 17th at the finish, he still managed to move into the overall lead. The stage win, taken in a chaotic bunch sprint, went to Danish Classics rider Matti Breschel (SaxoBank).
Valverde argued that his lead was important, given what he delicately called his ?situation? - the fact that he is currently banned in Italy for two years over his alleged Operacion Puerto connections.
?It doesn?t motivate me more, just the opposite. If I wasn?t in this situation, I?d be more focussed and my physical condition would be better too? Valverde, who has always claimed he is innocent, said afterwards.
Valverde has said he will lodge an appeal against the ban in the Court of Arbitration for Sport once his team, Caisse d?Epargne has seen the evidence the Italians say they have against the Spaniard. But that evidence has yet to be released and so the stalemate continues.
Dan Martin (Garmin) performed strongly on the same stage, held over roads he knows well - during the season he lives in Girona, where the stage started today.
Seventh over the final climb of San Pere de Rodes, Martin is now 37th overall, just 13 seconds down on Valverde - and the race?s two big Pyrenean stages are yet to come.
Stage two: Girona ? Roses, 163.1km
1. Matti Breschel (Denmark) Saxo Bank in 4-11-34
2. Jerome Pineau (France) Quick Step
3. Xavier Florencio (Spain) Cervelo
4. Nicolas Roche (Ireland) Ag2r
5. David De La Fuente (Spain) Fuji-Servetto
6. Yury Trofimov (Russia) BBox Bouygues Telecom
7. Paul Martens (Germany) Rabobank
8. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spain) Rabobank
9. Cyril Dessel (France) Ag2r
10. Michael Albasini (Switzerland) Columbia-Highroad all same time.
37. Daniel Martin (Ireland) Garmin-Slipstream at same time
Overall classification after stage two
1. Alejandro Valverde (Spain) Caisse d'Epargne in 4-16-22
2. Jerome Pineau (France) Quick Step at same time
3. Xavier Florencio (Spain) Cervelo Test Team at 1sec
4. Sylvain Chavanel (France) Quick Step at 2sec
5. Jussi Veikkanen (Finland) Francaise des Jeux at 2sec
6. Matti Breschel (Denmark) Saxo Bank at 3sec
7. Nicolas Roche (Ireland) Ag2r at 4sec
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain) Astana at 4sec
9. Vladimir Karpets (Russia) Katusha at 4sec
10. Samuel Sanchez (Spain) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 5sec
37. Daniel Martin (Ireland) Garmin-Slipstream at 13sec
Stage one: Hushovd wins Catalunya opener
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