The 32-year-old returned to competitive action in January of this year and in spite of his lay-off, he succeeded in taking seven victories and finishing on the podium of both the Vuelta a España and world championships.
“I think that year and a half of a stop will extend my career, as I was mentally disconnected [from cycling]. I had no objectives and no pressure,” Valverde told Diario de Navarra.
Indeed, Valverde – who has denied wrongdoing – claimed that he had returned from suspension in better condition than before, and that he was stronger at this year’s Vuelta than he was when he claimed overall victory in 2009.
“I won a medal at the Worlds in 2003 and in 2012, I was still up there,” he said. “And in this Vuelta, I was better than when I won it. I suffered less and I came through it better. I have three children and it’s hard to leave them, but I like this life. I would like to keep going until I’m 37 or 38.”
Valverde admitted that he had not expected to be quite as successful in his first season back in the peloton. “The most surprising thing was that I was able to win from January until the Worlds, where I went like a motorbike,” he said.
After his startling showing at the Vuelta, Valverde has decided to make the general classification of the Tour de France his primary objective in 2013. The Murcia native’s previous best in 6th in 2007.
“I have the Tour de France in mind. I don’t want to say I’m going for the win, but I think I can be on the podium. In the Tour, with a bit of luck, I can do it,” said Valverde, adding that he would have goals throughout the season as he built towards July.
Valverde also discussed the Lance Armstrong case with Diario de Navarra, acknowledging that the USADA investigation had “uncovered a large doping plot, that’s certain.” However, he felt that Armstrong had been treated more harshly than others.
“Armstrong has fallen and they’ve taken his Tours off him. I don’t think everything in cycling is dealt with equally. Others confessed to doping and they haven’t taken anything off them.”