PORTO VECCHIO, France (AFP) — Experienced Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) said on Friday that outstanding Tour de France favorite Chris Froome (Sky) was not unbeatable as he eyes a place on the podium when the race ends in Paris.
Valverde, 33, has never finished in the top 3 at the Tour and is not widely expected to pose a threat to the leading contenders.
But he was in a confident mood at a Movistar team news conference in Porto Vecchio on Friday. The first stage of the 100th edition of the race gets under way on Saturday.
“We can aspire to do something more than just win a couple of stages,” said Valverde, a talented all-rounder who won a mountain stage in the Pyrenees at last year’s Tour. “We have a very strong team and our aim is to be in a position to fight for a place on the podium in Paris.”
The former Vuelta a Espana champion acknowledged that Froome was the favorite for the overall victory but believed he has improved with age and feels that a way can be found to get the better of Team Sky.
“I am 33 now and have had moments of happiness and disappointment in my career, but we are convinced that we can do well,” Valverde said. “The Tour is very long and for all he has done this season, Froome is the big favorite.
“He has a great team around him and they will be difficult to beat — but they are not invincible. I think with a bit of luck I can go head to head with him and get on to the podium. I respect Froome but I am not afraid of anyone.”
Valverde, whose career was marred by a two-year doping ban handed down as part of the Operation Puerto investigation, also refused to rule out the prospect of teaming up with compatriot Alberto Contador in a coalition against Sky.
“For the moment, everyone is working for their own team but why not later on? There are various Spanish riders out there who can fight for a place on the podium,” he said.