Alejandro Valverde remains unbeaten in stage races this season as the Movistar rider sealed his first career win at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco. The 36-year-old has enjoyed a winning start to the 2017 season that started with victory at the Vuelta Ciclista a Murcia.
Valverde carried his form into Ruta del Sol, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and then Pais Vasco with Alberto Contador runner-up on all three occasions. Valverde started the final stage time trial in Eibar timed on time with Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac), Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale), Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) and Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) with it all to race for.
While he couldn't add to his stage 5 victory, second place to Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) sealed the victory by 17 seconds over Contador. The overall win wasn't as crushing as Catalunya with Valverde's bike handing and race smarts helping deliver the title.
"I really wanted to win this Itzulia. I have been on the verge of success so many years, always came close without a win - fortunately, it seems like I'm on a good streak this season, and claiming overall honours at last makes for a very special success," said Valverde. "Having no pressure before this race was possible thanks to that excellent start to 2017. It was a different País Vasco from previous editions, with lighter routes in the beginning - always demanding but not to much - and, at the end and as in every edition, it came down to the final TT. That's where we had to give everything for the win."
The overall win also continues Movistar's success in the one-week tours so far this season with Nairo Quintana winning Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Tirreno-Adriatico for the team. The victory is also the third straight WorldTour stage race for Movistar who now have 13 wins for the season.
With Valverde chalking up the victories with ease, he reflected on his performances in 2017 explaining that he is unsure exactly why he has hit such a rich vein of form.
"I'm even more surprised than anyone about how things are going for me this season. Every single year, at this point of the season, I yell it's my best start ever," he said. "But this time, you can't have any doubts: it's the best one."
Valverde's next races come in the Ardennes where he will aim to defend his La Fleche Wallonne title and add to his three Liege-Bastogne-Liege wins. And having finished on the Amstel Gold Race podium three times, Valverde is aiming to complete his Ardennes 'hat trick' with his first races outside Spain in 2017.
"With everything that I've won so far, I'm heading into the classics without any stress… maybe if I win one in the Ardennes, I can skip the rest of the season! (Laughs) Seriously: I'm in very good condition and we must try and take advantage from it at the Ardennes. After that, we'll have some rest and start preparing for the Tour," he added.