Valverde following Indurain's path?

Already guided by the management team that oversaw Miguel Indurain's five Tour de France successes,

Already guided by the management team that oversaw Miguel Indurain's five Tour de France successes,

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Alejandro Valverde's Flche Wallonne victory had the Spanish press in raptures, not so much because the Classics title won by the Caisse d'Epargne rider but more because it enabled them to roll out the latest of their comparisions to five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.

AS columnist Juan Mora says simply that "seeing the evolution of Valverde recalls Indurain's development". Mora points out the obvious, that the two riders have been guided by team managers Jos Miguel Echavarri and Eusebio Unzue, but also makes less obvious comparisons. Like Indurain, says Mora, Valverde is being increasingly focused on specific targets, primarily the Tour de France.

Mora adds that by this stage in 2004 Valverde, then with Kelme, had won seven races, in 2005 his tally was six, but this year it is just three. All of those wins, though, have come in key tests: the first in Valverde's 'home' race, the Tour of Murcia, the second in the Tour of the Basque Country, the third in Flche. It is interesting to note that as well as a reduction in wins, Valverde is also competing less early in the season: 21 days to this point last year, just 16 this.

Mora concludes by pointing out another interesting coincidence in the careers of Indurain and Valverde: the great Navarran won his first Tour title at the age of 26, and Valverde will reach the same age next Monday. Before winning his first Tour title in 1991, Indurain took a summit victory in the previous year's Tour, which may yet prove another good omen for Valverde who did exactly that last year.

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