An interview with Alejandro Valverde, April 23, 2006
In recent years, winning several of the three Ardennes Classics has become a common theme, with Davide Rebellin's historic triple in 2004 and Danilo Di Luca's Amstel-Flèche double last year. This week, Alejandro Valverde continued the trend with victories in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the latter the first ever for a Spanish rider. Cyclingnews' Brecht Decaluwé attended the post-race press conference in Ans.
Cyclingnews: How difficult was it to motivate yourself for today's race?
Alejandro Valverde: This 'doble' is really like a dream to me, but obviously, it is more complicated than just dreaming it. My main advantage was that I did not have to worry about winning a classic after my victory in Huy, so I entered the finale very relaxed.
CN: You didn't react to any attacks - why was that?
AV: My teammate Rodriguez rode up front so it wasn't up to me to lead the chase; thanks to Joaquin's work, I could spare all my energy. Furthermore, when Bettini went after them, Joaquin was still our leader, as he could still win the race because he is very fast at the finish line. Team CSC had to chase to get back on those guys; that was good for me.
CN: Does this double classics victory allow you to go at ease to your next goals, the Tour de France and maybe the overall ProTour rankings?
AV: These are my next targets; that's true. The ProTour is very important but I am not going to change my program to gather more points in the overall ProTour rankings. Obviously, I want to do very well in the Tour de France; now I can go there with a tranquillity and serenity that I couldn't have if I didn't win one of these two races.
CN: In last Sunday's Amstel Gold Race, you were beaten by the distance; today it appears that this wasn't a problem?
AV: The distance did frighten me, but I tried to eat a lot this morning and yesterday. During the race, I felt that I had a lot of energy left in my body.
CN: You are the first Spanish rider to win Liège-Bastogne-Liège; how does that make you feel?
AV: Winning this race is already something special, winning it as the first Spanish rider ever adds even more shine to this victory.
CN: Your nickname is 'the invincible' - where did that come from?
AV: In the youth ranks, I won almost every race where I started, so that's where I got it.
CN: Your next race is in Switzerland with the Tour de Romandie - will you aim for victory there as well?
AV: First, I'll have to see how I can recover from these efforts because this was a very tough week; but I know there are some stages that should fit me very well. The team line-up is also very strong there, so maybe I'll just try to stand by the other guys in their chase for glory.
CN: Can you describe how that spectacular final kilometre unfolded from your perspective?
AV: Before the last kilometre, I had Joaquin Rodriguez Olivier up front and when they were caught, there were numerous attacks. I was right at the tail of Sinkewitz when he attacked; I followed him and that way we entered the final straight.
CN: Coming into the final sprint, did you know you were the fastest rider?
AV: I knew I was one of the fastest riders in the group, but I figured that Bettini and Martin Perdiguero were my major antagonists in the sprint; I knew I could gamble on a sprint.
CN: After the victory in Flèche Wallonne, you said that your win at Tour de France's Courchevel was more important; where do you rank today's victory?
AV: All these races are different, so it's difficult to compare them. This victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège is more prestigious as this race has a great history in cycling; winning it as the first Spanish rider ever makes it very special. Beating Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France, a race that he dominated for so many years, was also very special, of course.
Throughout the press conference, Valverde's mobile phone is constantly ringing, playing an unknown Spanish ring tone; however, Diego Martin is the favourite artist for Liège-Bastogne-Liège's winner Alejandro Valverde Belmonte.