Alejandro Valverde portrait 2

Eddy Merckx has tipped Spaniard Alejandro Valverde for the Tour de France 2007 but ?The Cannibal? has also argues that Oscar Pereiro, Valverde?s team-mate and who stands to win the Tour ?6 if Floyd Landis positive is confirmed, could be a potential winner.

Merckx got out the crystal bowl for July during a visit to the Tour of Qatar - a race which he was partly responsible for creating. Apart from talking to the press, Merckx has been training on some days in the Middle Eastern country with Tom Boonen.

Asked if he thought Valverde (pictured) could win the Tour this summer, Merckx immediately answered ?Yes. He?s naturally talented, he?s experienced and he?s the best Spanish rider out there. It was a pity he crashed and abandoned in last year?s Tour. He?s a solid candidate for winning overall this July.?

But Merckx also recognised that Valverde?s team-mate Pereiro could not be ruled out - and if both Spaniards are on form this summer, the situation could prove complicated for Caisse D?Epargne to control.

Merckx also had words of support for Quick Step boss Patrick Lefevere, saying that there was ?no proof? for the accusations made last week in the Belgian press about doping. ?It?s always the same, just like Operacion Puerto, everybody knows that Eufemiano Fuentes was the doctor for other athletes. So why don?t those names come out too??

If Valverde is a firm favourite for this July for Merckx, one rider who is increasingly pessimistic about taking part in the Tour this summer is Floyd Landis. Landis recently commented that the legal cases in France and the US could well drag on until June and that he has practically ?drawn a line through 2007.?

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