Valverde: Mancebo is team leader

Alejandro Valverde says that he is prepared to work for Paco Mancebo at Illes Balears and that he wo

Alejandro Valverde says that he is prepared to work for Paco Mancebo at Illes Balears and that he wo
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Illes Balears might have spent three million euros securing the services of the highly rated Alejandro Valverde for the next three seasons, but the 24-year-old from Murcia shows no sign of losing his down-to-earth manner if comments in today's edition of Marca are anything to go by. Asked about his status in the team, Valverde responded that "Paco Mancebo is the team leader" and said he would do whatever he could to help Mancebo, who edged the Murcian out of third place at the Vuelta just a couple of months ago. Valverde said that the big advantage for him in signing for Illes Balears after three seasons with Kelme was the guarantee of being able to ride the major tours, particularly the Tour de France, where he may well make his first appearance next year. "The main objective is the Tour, but I will be going there to learn, but the aim also of doing as well as possible. I will be looking for a stage win and to finish as high as possible overall. It is understandable that if Lance Armstrong is not riding there will be a bigger chance of victory for the rest, but I would prefer him to be present so that I can compete against a man who has won the race six times," said Valverde. "Doing well if Armstrong is present would have more value." With the Tour as his main objective, Valverde explained that he would consequently take things somewhat easier in the first half of the season than he has done. It remains to be seen whether Valverde might effectively be turning his back on the races to which he is most suited. Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saiz told procycling last week that he thought the Spaniard is best suited to the Classics and week-long stage races. Illes Balears' spending spree has continued with the recruitment of world pursuit champion Sergi Escobar. The 30-year-old Catalan, who took the bronze medal in the same event in Athens, has been looking for a team that would give him the chance to ride at the top level on the road. "He's 30, but he started riding very late and for that reason you could say that he is a young veteran," said Balears team manager Eusebio Unzue. Track star Escobar has been riding for the Barcelona elite team, and has ridden well in a number of hilly events for them. Unzue is hoping the pursuiter will follow the same career path as former world and Olympic champion Brad McGee, and become a prologue specialist. The team has also reached an agreement to sign Costa de Almeria's Jonathan Gonzalez, and is hoping to take on Milaneza's Francisco Perez, who is likely to be released following the Portuguese team's entry into the European continental circuit.
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