Valverde hints at racing Tour of Flanders

Spaniard tempted to stay in Belgium after Dwars door Vlaanderen

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has hinted he may stay on in Belgium after riding Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen and line up in Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.

Valverde is riding Dwars door Vlaanderen with Movistar teammate Nairo Quintana in order to get a taste of cobbled racing before this year’s Tour de France stage across northern France to Roubaix. He was expected to head home after today’s race but is considering spending Easter Sunday at the Tour of Flanders.

"It is not 100 per cent excluded. In theory, the Ronde is not on my programme, but we are close to Sunday and we are in Belgium." Valverde told Sporza.

"I love the race route, which is very beautiful. The Ronde is a spectacular race, and I would like to be at the start even if I have never raced it before.”

Several Tour de France contenders have been preparing for the Roubaix stage of the Le Tour by riding cobbled Classics and other one-day races this spring. Valverde's teammate Mikel Landa rode last week's E3 Harelbeke, while Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) is also riding Dwars door Vlaanderen, and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) will ride the Tour of Flanders.

Under UCI rules, a team can enter a rider for a race up to 72 hours before the start, with a final confirmation from that list obligatory on the afternoon before the race.

Valverde, who rode Dwars door Vlaanderen and E3 Harelbeke in 2014, is clearly on form after winning the Volta a Catalunya stage race and so does not intend to just ride around on Wednesday.

"I have not raced so many races on cobbles but it is a dream come true and so it is extra motivation," Valverde said after doing a training ride in the rain on Tuesday.

"I am clearly in good shape, I am strong, but you have to have a lot of experience for these races, so it will be difficult. But I will be ride without any pressure and I will try to enjoy it as much as possible."

"I am here for the Tour stage, but I am also ambitious. I am a very competitive rider and wherever I go I want to do well. Although I’m pretty old, I want to learn things here. I want to stay as close as possible to Van Avermaet and the others, that way there’s less risk and it will be easier to finish in front."

A remarkable comeback but with fear of wet roads

Valverde has made a remarkable comeback since crashing out of the opening time trial at the 2017 Tour de France. He suffered a career-threatening kneecap fracture but worked hard during the off-season and has already won eight races, including overall victories at the Abu Dhabi Tour and the Volta a Catalunya.

Tom Boonen has described Valverde as his ‘secret favourite’ for the Tour of Flanders but the Spaniard admitted that while he has made a full physical recover from his crash, he still suffers mentally when it is wet.

Rain is forecast for Sunday’s Tour of Flanders and so this, more than anything else, may ultimately convince Valverde to head home instead of pinning on a race number.

“I never could have thought that I would be riding at the same level as last year, or even better," Valverde said of his recovery. "On a physical level I don’t feel the consequences of the crash anymore, I do mentally a bit, and if the road is a little wet because of the rain, then I'm a bit more cautious.

"It expected to rain at Dwars door Vlaanderen, making it a difficult day, so I will try to take as few risks as possible."

 

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