Alejandro Valverde saw his considerable achievements recognised today [Wednesday] by the Spanish state in its sports honours system.
The Movistar rider, who topped the WorldTour rankings for a second year in a row, was awarded a gold medal under the Real Orden del Mérito Deportivo – which translates to the Royal Order of Sporting Merit – at a ceremony at the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid.
Medals – gold, silver or bronze – are one rung below the highest honour that can be conferred – that of a Gran Cruz. As well as collecting his individual award, Valverde was able to bask in collective success as the Movistar team received a silver plaque.
"It is an immense honour for your country to recognise what you have achieved throughout your career," said Valverde in an interview with AS ahead of the ceremony. Away from the road, I see it as the most important prize I've ever been awarded."
Valverde has had yet another stellar year, topping the WorldTour rankings for a second time in a row. At 35, in his fourth season since serving a two-year drugs ban, the consistency has shown no sign of letting up and the big wins no sign of drying up.
He pulled off an Ardennes double in April with wins at Fleche-Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, before getting on the Tour de France podium for the first time in his career and winning another stage of the Vuelta a Espana.
"Without a doubt [this is my best season to date]. Although I missed out on the podium at the Vuelta and the Worlds, I made it on there at the Tour – which was a lifelong ambition. I won my third Fleche-Wallonne and my third Liege, another national title. I went all out in every single race… I can't have many complaints," said Valverde.
The Movistar team in general have enjoyed another successful season, mostly thanks to Valverde, and their silver plaque comes in part as a result of their strong Spanish identity and core.
Five former cyclists were also honoured at the event. Iván Gutiérrez was awarded a silver medal, while Juanjo Oroz and Juan Manuel Gárate received bronze. Pruden Indurain and Juan Carlos Martín also received bronze medals, for their work at local government level.