For Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), finishing the 2014 season at the top of the WorldTour rankings was the cherry on the top of an already accomplished season. After taking 11 victories and stepping on the podium at Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Il Lombardia and the world championships and signing a new three-year contract with Movistar, the Spaniard went as far as to say it was the best of his 12-year career. “By a mile. No doubts about that.
“I'm more than satisfied with what I achieved this season - I would be more than happy to repeat that in 2015.”
Valverde beat fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador by 66 points to end the year as world number one for the third time in his career – after winning the ProTour rankings in 2006 and 2008. “It's extremely important for me,” Valverde said of the victory.
“Finishing on top of the rankings is a reward to the whole work I did before and during the season. It means that my season was really good, that I always kept up doing well throughout the season, constant and consistent.”
The title race between Valverde and Contador almost went down to the wire. The Tinkoff-Saxo rider went into Il Lombardia with a 14 point-lead over Valverde. However, the Movistar rider was able to reverse the order by making the podium while Contador failed to score any after crashing out in the finale.
With more than a hundred points still available both riders were prepared to extend their season an extra week, and race at the Tour of Beijing to seal the deal. However, with Valverde’s wife only recently giving birth to their second child the 34-year-old was relieved to say the least when he didn’t have to fly out to China.
“Though we were both about to board on the plane to China, we decided that it was better to stay home,” said Valverde. “It's true that I asked him after his crash in Italy if he was going to Beijing, because I didn't have that race on my calendar either and, above all, what I wanted in that moment was enjoying my newborn baby. Eventually, I had both things.”
Valverde hit the ground running in 2014 with overall victory and three stage wins at the Vuelta a Andalucía. Wins followed at his home Vuelta a Murcia, Roma Maxima and GP Miguel Indurain. His form continued through to the Ardennes Classics at the end of April where he won Flèche Wallonne and finished second to Simon Gerrans at Liège. Among his other successes was the Spanish national time trial title, Clásica San Sebastián and a podium at the Vuelta a España.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the Movistar rider. He had hoped to make the podium at the Tour de France for the first time in his career, but faded in the final week and finished fourth. While it was his best result at the French Grand Tour, he still laments at what could have been.
“It was my highest GC finish in France, but it left me a bitter taste after having the podium on my hands. Losing it was the worst moment of my season.”
After achieving a number of big goals this season, Valverde is looking to expand his horizons in 2015. He may not have been included in the Tinkov €1 million challenge, but the Spaniard hinted that a tilt at all three Grand Tours in a season is something that whets his appetite.
“The Giro is a race I've never taken part in, and I already said in other times I would like to give it a try - I'm already well experienced in both the Tour and the Vuelta. Riding all three Grand Tours? Why not,” said Valverde. “It's a challenge that I like and it's in my mind, too, though I haven't still spoken to Eusebio.”