Valverde skips Tour of Flanders

Movistar rider says he will play a support role at Tour de France

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) has ruled out racing this weekend's Tour of Flanders. Speaking with Spanish radio programme El Larguero, Valverde confirmed that he will stick to his original plan of racing the one-day Grand Prix Miguel Indurain on Saturday.

"We have been evaluating it, and in the end, I won't race the Tour of Flanders," he told the radio programme. "We will go to Spain and on Saturday I will be in the Grand Prix Miguel Indurain. [Flanders] is a really important, beautiful race, but we decided to return home and it wasn't to be.

"I would like to race, but I have taken a lot from my body with continuous, really hard, racing. Indurain is a hard race, but not like Sunday."

Valverde was in Belgium this week, with teammate Nairo Quintana, to ride Wednesday's Dwars door Vlaanderen as a test of the cobbles ahead of the Tour de France's cobbled test in July. In an interview with Belgian broadcaster Sporza, the Spaniard suggested that he might extend his stay in the country to incorporate its biggest race. While the weather appears to have played a factor in Valverde's decision not to remain, he held his own against many of the top Classics stars.

The Movistar rider remained in the lead group for the vast majority of the race, putting forward several of his own attacks in the process. He was unable to follow when Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac) made the decisive split but came across the line in the second group to claim 11th place.

"I am tired and still cold," he said a long while after the race had reached its conclusion. "They were 180 kilometres where it was raining all the time and two or three degrees, and we had a really hard race due to the weather. The weather was worse than the cobbles.

"You couldn't eat as well, and you couldn't grab the food with frosted hands," he continued. "There was a lot of attention. It was a very complicated race. The cobbles are hard but today it was more the weather."

It was a tough day out, but he was pleased with how things panned out. "There was a lot of stress but I was able to be with the decisive group and I had good sensations. I was hungry because I couldn't eat anything at all during the whole race so I am satisfied with the result.

During the interview, Valverde was also asked about his potential role at the Tour de France. Quintana and Mikel Landa, who tested out the cobbles at E3 Harelbeke, have both staked their claims on the leadership. Valverde is expected to join the pair at the Grand Boucle, stoking questions around the team rivalry that could arise over the three weeks. Valverde said that he would play a support role and pointed to Quintana as the overarching leader.

"You will have to ask Eusebio [Unzue]," Valverde responded. "My role will be to help Nairo and Mikel in every moment. I always say that Nairo will be the team leader and then it will be Mikel and then there will be me. You have to know from the start how thing will be."

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