Valverde clinches Dauphiné, but will it be his last for two years?

Alejandro Valverde won the Dauphiné Libéré for the second successive season but if the UCI decides the Italian Olympic Committee’s [CONI] paperwork is all in order, it could be his last race for two years.

While the 29-year-old Spaniard was defending his race leader’s jersey in the Alps at the weekend, the UCI’s lawyers were assessing the contents of CONI’s 24-page report explaining the reasons for the two-year suspension from competing in Italy.

The UCI is expected to decide this week whether the ruling conforms to WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] rules. If it does, Caisse d’Epargne can expect to lose their rider for two years.

Stef Clement of the Netherlands won the final stage of the Dauphiné Libéré from Faverges to Grenoble. The Rabobank rider beat Garmin’s Tim Duggan and French rider Sebastien Joly, who is racing again after recovering from cancer, in a three-up sprint. All three riders had been part of a 28-man break that went clear early in the 146-kilometre stage.

Germany’s world time trial champion Bert Grabsch was away on his own for a long spell, before being caught with around 35 kilometres to go.

On the run-in, Joly attacked but Clement and Duggan reeled him in.

Behind the breakaway, Valverde neutralised a series of attacks made by Cadel Evans on the final climb of the stage, who lay second overall. Thanks to his fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador, Valverde kept his grip on the leader’s jersey.

After the stage, Valverde said he would like to repay Contador’s help at the Tour de France. But it’s looking increasingly unlikely Valverde will be on the start line in Monaco.

After a solid week’s climbing, Britain’s David Millar finished ninth overall.

The UCI is set to decide this week whether to ‘globalise’ the two-year ban imposed on Valverde by CONI [Italian Olympic Committee].

CONI’s case hinged on the fact it has matched Valverde’s blood to blood seized in the Operacion Puerto doping investigation three years ago. This, according to CONI, proves the link between Valverde and Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.

The UCI’s lawyers are studying the 24-page report, and will decide whether it conforms to UCI and WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] rules. If it does, Valverde will be banned for two years.

If it doesn’t, CONI has some explaining to do. Valverde’s ban would be overturned, the Spaniard would be allowed to ride the Tour de France (which makes a brief incursion into Italy) and CONI’s reputation would be in the gutter.

Meanwhile, Valverde has said he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the CONI decision, but there is no date for a hearing yet and with the Tour de France less than three weeks away, time is running out. A date with CAS could take months.