Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) once again had to admit defeat after cramping up in the final of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, after already losing Flèche Wallonne just days earlier. And for the second time this week, the Spaniard managed to put on a brave face despite his latest setback.
He finished 13th in Liège-Bastogne-Liège having dropped out of the main group of top contenders. He initially weaved his way through the crowds at the finish to the Movistar team bus without talking to reporters.
He quickly clambered on board and headed for a shower - but not before receiving a quick hug of commiseration for his defeat from team manager Eusebio Unzue. Losing Flèche Wallonne must have been tough to take. But failing to draw equal with Eddy Merckx's record of five wins in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the race Valverde says he likes the most in the calendar, must have been an even harder pill to swallow.
Talking later to his team website, Valverde recognised that he had not been on the top of this game in the final, where he had chased down some attacks, but could not regain control of the situation as he wanted.
"I don't know if it was as a result of the heat and humidity. I was fine when the race was going at a normal pace, but when I wanted to give it everything, I couldn't push as hard on the pedals as I'd have liked." Valverde, who suffered from cramps in the finale, said afterwards.
"If I'd been going well, I think I would have been stronger than the rest of the group, but I couldn't give anymore, and when I saw I had no options, I just eased back and rolled into the finish.
"I tried to counter-attack after [Bob] Jungels went away, but I was very closely marked."
Valverde argued that he and his team should be pleased with the results "because we always gave it everything, and with these results, people should be more aware of how difficult it is to always win."
Unzue told Cyclingnews, too, that the team had not had its best day.
"Alejandro did well, but some of our riders we hoped could have done better and been up there were really cramping up at the end and we couldn't close that gap [on Jungels]," Unzue said. Unzue also said the warm weather partly had a role to play in that, affecting "all the peloton, some riders more than others, including some of ours. A lot of riders were suffering because of that.
“Jungels amply deserved his win, he's a great champion and Quick-Step did a great job collectively. "
He explained that as the race conditions and weather took their toll, the team had to control the race, but they didn't have enough riders left in the last 25 kilometres.
"Alejandro was alone, and we couldn't do more than what we did. He tried his best as hard as he could, but finally seeing that he couldn't fight for the victory, he sat back and let it all go in the last few metres.
"Quick-Step, collectively are in a great condition as they have been in all these Classics, and they've been able to take advantage of their strength in numbers, and when it's not one of their riders that goes off the front, it's another.
"But in any case, Alejandro did a good Liège, in my opinion. That he didn't win, and you can't do that every day, helps people understand just what he's achieved.
"Ever since 2006, 13 Lièges on, he's still up there. And that's to his immense credit. Even being a favourite, let alone winning, for so long puts him in a class of his own."
With nine victories in his palmares already this season, Valverde told the team website he was now looking forward to a well-earned rest.
As for drawing equal to Merckx's record "That's yet to happen, but it's not an obsession."
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