Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has admitted that he wasn’t expecting to perform as well as he did this past season following his return from a two-year ban from racing. The Spaniard said the final part of his season had been “excellent. I couldn’t have asked for more. It’s been a good year for me and for Movistar.”
Valverde won a stage at the Tour, finished second at the Vuelta and took the bronze medal in the road race at the Worlds. “If I’m honest, I think I was expecting less. I began very well, I had a little drop-off in form at the end of March and into April, and then I started the Tour very well, apart from the falls I had,” he told Marca.
The Spaniard said he believes he has benefited from the time he spent away from racing as a result of his ban. “I think I learned a good deal during that period and, quite honestly, I enjoyed it. I did things that I can’t do when I’m racing. I enjoyed being with my family, travelling… I honestly think that I can now stay competitive until I’m 36 or 37.”
Valverde added that he felt his time away from racing has made him mentally stronger, and believes this will serve him well in achieving future objectives, which will primarily be the Grand Tours. Asked if Spain had lost potentially its best Classics rider of all time because of his focus on three-week races, Valverde responded: “In the Vuelta I’ve finished first, second twice, third, fourth and fifth… Those who say that I’m not a rider suited to three-week races don’t understand a lot about cycling.
“In the Tour I have had bad moments, but I always finish well in the final week. The problem is that I’ve always had falls. The first week of the Tour is very difficult, you have to be at the front. But I think I’ve got the head and the legs to be in contention at the Tour and at the Giro as well.”
Valverde conducted the interview with Marca a number of weeks ago, before he went on honeymoon and before the release of the USADA dossier on Lance Armstrong. However, a story published by Marca two weeks ago, following the release of the USADA dossier, appeared to indicate that Valverde had spoken more recently when he said of Armstrong’s Tour victories: “He won those Tours with his legs, with his body, and nobody should believe that he didn’t suffer. For me, those Tours are his. I don’t understand why we are looking back.”
Those comments subsequently received a lot of flak, perhaps unfairly given the timing of their release. However, Valverde underlined that looking back is not something he is keen to do when asked about his links with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the Puerto affair. “Eufemiano was part of the technical staff on my previous [Kelme] team. He was there. I was there, but I don’t want go back into that,” he said.
Then asked if he had ridden clean throughout his career, Valverde replied: “My conscience is clear. I won and I have kept on winning. Each person can think what they want.” Had he felt dirty at any time, he was then asked? “No, but I felt wounded by things that had been said about me. The best response to that can be given on the road and I keep doing that.”
Asked if he feels that he’s a victim, he said: “I keep defending myself by saying I am innocent. I am adamant about that.”