Alejandro Valverde has revealed his ideal race programme for the 2018 season, indicating that he will skip the Tour de France in favour of riding the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España ahead of the World Championships in Austria.
The Spaniard was due to ride the Tour, Vuelta and Worlds this year, but his season was abruptly ended by a crash on the opening day of the Tour in which he broke his left kneecap and talus bone.
With his recovery progressing quicker than expected, Valverde has resisted the temptation to return to racing this season but is already raring to get stuck into the 2018 campaign. In an interview in Monday's edition of Spanish newspaper El País, he described himself as "impatient", and even asked Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué to let him ride last week's Milano-Torino.
"It's because I'm feeling good. I'm doing 700 kilometres a week. In my training group, people who've known me forever, they say I'm at least as strong as before," Valverde said. "I'm eager to confirm it in a race."
Valverde said that when the season does roll around, he likely won't return to the schedule he had planned for this season, explaining that Movistar's signing of Mikel Landa from Team Sky has put him off going to the Tour. With Nairo Quintana also there, the team have three riders capable of winning Grand Tours.
"You can't write anything off in life, but with the signings the team has made this year, with Landa, with Nairo there…I don't want to do the Tour," Valverde told El País.
"I think next year what I'll have to do is dedicate myself to the Giro, Vuelta and Worlds. Next year the Worlds in Austria is hard, very hard."
In 2018 Valverde's first major objective will, as usual, be the Ardennes Classics in April, with a sixth Flèche Wallonne title and a fifth Liège-Bastogne-Liège on the cards. This year he won both, but in the preceding months he had already won the Ruta del Sol, Volta a Catalunya, and Vuelta al País Vasco in a remarkable run of results. He was set to support Quintana at this year's Tour before trying to win the Vuelta and going on to compete for the rainbow jersey at the Worlds in Bergen.
And it's the Worlds that continue to represent a major focus, as Valverde is hungry to turn his string of podium places into a first rainbow jersey. While he could conceivably have thrived on the Bergen course, next year in Innsbruck, with over 4,000 metres of climbing, looks to be a more selective affair in the style of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
"If Eusebio said to me, 'you decide your calendar', I would say 'Classics, Giro, Vuelta, and Worlds'," said Valverde.
"Why? I don't have many opportunities left to win the Worlds. I have six medals but not one gold. And in Innsbruck it's very very hard, and if everything goes well… Well, we'll see how I recover with the knee. Everything's going well for the moment, but until you start to race again you never know."
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