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With defending champion Oscar Freire already sidelined from next week's world championships in Madrid by injury, the host nation finally received some good news on their team for September 25th's road race when national selector Paco Antequera confirmed that Alejandro Valverde would be taking part.
"I've spoken with him and he's told me that he has been training hard for the past few days, with some sessions beyond 200 kilometres, and even up to 250," Antequera said at the Vuelta on Tuesday. "He has also been doing work behind a bike and a car in order to pick up the rhythm of competition.
"Clearly there has been a lot of interest in him and I am going to put my faith in him in spite of the fact that he has only racing on a single day since he retired from the Tour. It would not be the first time that Valverde was to win a race after having done his preparation at home."
Antequera admitted that he is still counting on Saunier Duval's Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero if the Worlds ends in a bunch sprint, but both rider and coach acknowledged there are far quicker riders around than the Saunier man. "In a bunch sprint the undoubted favourite is Petacchi," said Antequera. "If we had Freire we would have a good chance of a medal, but at the moment our best chance is to make the closing kilometres as hard as possible, and to set up breaks that would increase the chances of Valverde, Astarloa or Flecha.
"We will leave the bulk of the work during the race to Italy," he continued. "The circuit doesn't seem as flat to me as they say it is. There are two hills where damage can be done, especially if the race is fast and the weather is hot. Those two factors would help us."
Spain's only doubt now concerns Discovery Channel's Benjamin Noval, who has fallen ill and looks likely to be replaced by one of Angel Vicioso, Luis Perez or David Blanco. Antequera revealed that he is also considering asking for permission from the UCI to select the very in-form Joseba Beloki.
Spain's team for the road race now comprises Igor Astarloa (Barloworld), Alejandro Valverde (Illes Balears), Miguel Angel Martin Perdiguero (Phonak), Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo), Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears), Marcos Serrano (Liberty Seguros), Constantino Zaballa (Saunier Duval) and Oscar Pereiro (Phonak). Jos Ivan Gutierrez (Illes Balears) and Ruben Plaza (Comunitat Valenciana) have been selected for the time trial.
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