Alejandro Valverde insists that cycling is "in great health" from an anti-doping perspective, again voicing his grievance at being asked about his own doping past.
In a Q&A with Spanish daily newspaper Marca, Valverde discussed a range of topics, among them his reaction to questions about the two-year ban he served between 2010 and 2012 after being implicated in Operación Puerto.
Last week Cyclingnews asked Valverde about his past, to which he responded by saying he shouldn't be asked about Operación Puerto and by claiming that anyone who does so is "clueless".
Referencing the story, Marca asked Valverde if he felt 'hurt' by such questions.
"It doesn't hurt me, but I don't like it when people ask me about it, including you now," he replied.
"It's you guys [journalists], first and foremost, who give weight to it. Anyone is free to write what they want, but, in giving it weight, you're playing along with that game."
Valverde was banned in 2010 after his DNA was matched to one of the blood bag seized in a raid on the premises of disgraced Spanish doctor Eufamiano Fuentes. The Spaniard was welcomed back immediately by the Movistar team and has gone on to enjoy the most fruitful years of his career, with multiple wins at Liège-Bastogne-Liège and La Flèche Wallonne, along with Grand Tour podiums, and now a world title.
Valverde has never opened up about his involvement in Operacion Puerto or shown remorse for it. Now 38, he has gone from strength to strength since his ban, which has made him one of the most divisive figures in the modern peloton.
However, despite the divided public opinion, he insists he has the backing of his colleagues inside the peloton.
"I feel very well supported," he said. "My biggest rivals in the peloton are all extremely happy for me."
Asked if modern cycling is a model of clean sport, he said: "It's very clear that today cycling is in great health."
Valverde became world champion at the end of September and has balanced the customary sponsorship commitments with a stint of racing in Italy, finishing his 2018 campaign at Il Lombardia on Saturday. He will head to Japan in November for an appearance at ASO's Saitama Criterium but will then head off on holiday with his family over the off-season.
"The rainbow jersey is not going to change me at this stage, at 38 and with all that I've achieved," Valverde told Marca. "The only thing that has changed is the number of commitments, which has tripled. I'll have to learn to be selective - I cannot be everywhere at once."
Valverde has spoken before about his desire to race the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, at which point he will be 40 years old, but has no fixed date for retirement and will carry on as long as he's still enjoying his racing.
"I'm going to think about Tokyo and then we'll see," he said. "You have to recognise that everything has a beginning and an end. Nothing is set in stone, and I'm enjoying it. As you could see in Lombardia, without being up there with the best guys, I enjoyed it."
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