Alejandro Valverde received his UCI WorldTour individual prize at the inaugural Cycling Gala and dinner in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to confirm the Movistar rider as the top ranked cyclist for the second year running. The 35-year-old was one of several protagonists of the season to be honoured at the end of year celebration in the UAE, including his Movistar team which was awarded the top WorldTour prize for the third straight year.
"These three years in a row winning the World Tour are something really important, which we deserved after such an impressive work from the whole team: riders, staff, sports directors... a group full of human values and bonds that was able to fulfil our goals," said Valverde of the team prize
Valverde's WorldTour victory was built upon victories at La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège while podium finishes at Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, Amstel Gold Race, Tour de France and Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian along with top-ten finishes at the Critérium du Dauphiné, Vuelta a Espana and Il Lombardia.
"My individual victory? It's the result of teamwork, a proof of consistency, a consequence of always having great team-mates by my side, helping me out everywhere, always keeping me at the front, making sure I don't miss anything... I put my legs, my training, taking care of myself, riding harder than the others - there's no other secret than everyone's job," Valverde said of his individual victory which saw him finish on 675 points.
Valverde has proven himself to be one of the most consistent riders in the peloton as a win in January to start his season and seventh overall at the Abu Dhabi Tour to finish suggests. As a two-time winner of the WorldTour's predecessor, the ProTour, since his 2003 podium finish at the Vuelta a Espana Valverde's consistency was briefly halted by a two-year doping ban but since his 2012 return he's hardly missed a beat.
"I don't know if I'm the strongest rider around, but it's true that I'm always there, in good position, performing strong," he said. "That's one of the ways to explain how I won this ranking four times - also that I like cycling, it's my passion. It's also a job, a hard sport, but passion above all. Every bit of suffering is easier to bear this way.
"You enjoy suffering. You're always willing to fight, even here in Abu Dhabi, where you enjoy sort of a holiday when you're not on the bike, but not really like that for me - I'm always focused on the racing, trying to help my team-mates out on the flat, and later on, giving my best in the mountains to stay close to the top guys."
Team manager Eusebio Unzué added that Valverde remains an example for the younger riders on the roster including 2014 Giro d'Italia and two-time Tour de France runner up Nairo Quintana.
"Regarding Alejandro - well, all words of praise and appreciation for everything he does and represents for this team would really be an understatement. It's the one keeping the whole team calm and confident; the man who allows Nairo's progression away from any pressure; the master who brings experience and tranquility to all our youngsters, so they can grow without any hurry," Unzué said, adding the examples of younger rider's successes in 2015, "Ion Izagirre's victory in Pologne; Andrey's fourth place in the Giro; Lobato in the sprints; Marc Soler and his Tour de l'Avenir. I don't really know how things will be when he retires, but every season we start with him aboard is one you're excited about."